Monday, February 26, 2007

I'm here... and in Williamsburg

So, I haven't posted in a while. But I'm still here. I have a lot of things I want to post about that I didn't get a chance to yet, so don't be surprised if a whole bunch of posts just appear suddenly in a few days like an avalanche. In the meantime, I am happy to report that Manhattan is not the only choice in town for a good old gallery hop. Last weekend me and my gf went to a gallery event in Williamsburg, where a whole bunch of galleries stayed open till 11pm. Here's some more info here: RAW After Hours. Overall, I'd give the whole thing mixed reviews. Most galleries weren't serving any alcohol, which is always a drawback, and some places were actually closed, yes CLOSED, even though they advertised as being open. It didn't help that a lot of the galleries were spaced out quite aways apart and it was absolutely frigid out. A couple highlights did stand out. There was an interesting exhibit at LMAK Projects which is actually a gallery located in somebody's apartment. The vibe was cool as people were just lounging in this apartment, eating cheese and drinking whiskey. It had the feel of a hip house party, so all was well. The best show was at Figureworks , which featured the art of Joshua Katcher , who apparently is having some success as a filmmaker as well, having screened at Cannes. Check out his work yourself, it's pretty good, and was the best stuff on the entire circuit.

That's all for now, but expect a lot of new posts in the coming days (to make up for all the prior inactivity).

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Lazy Lima Bean

Today I was perusing the internet and I found my picture posted on a site. It's always amusing to be looking at a website and then to be surprised at seeing your mug staring right back at you. I think this was a picture taken from a film networking event called Lazy Lima Bean.

Don't remember what happened at the party, but I know they had an open bar. The picture is here. I have no idea who those people are next to me, but they look far less than drunk than me. Actually, I don't think I was that drunk at all, I showed up late and didn't have a chance to have enough drinks. I don't know who I met there, but I got a whole bunch of emails the next day trying to sell me stuff- was it interrelated? Don't know. Anyway, check out these events and maybe you'll meet somebody.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Gallery hops

OK, as promised here is a little bit more of an upbeat post. One of the best things that NYC offers is a lot of good, cheap entertainment and fun. One of the most fun things to do, in my mind, is to head down to all the galleries during their openings and get drunk on free wine and beer while looking at art. And interacting with all the good looking people who tend to go to these things. Often times I like to go to "gallery hops", organized by my friend Evan, where we jump (get it, hop?) from one gallery to another, trying to see as much as possible and get as drunk as possible (or at least I do.) He usually holds them on most Thursdays. To get some more information, you can check out his website, Hipster Travel.

Last Thursday, we started out in Chelsea, then made our way down to some gallery in the Lower East Side, which had a party that went till about midnight, then finished up at Dark Room. I must say I was already half way gone by the time we got to the LES, and I have no idea what happened at Dark Room. I remember arranging a hookup between a lesbian and a bi-sexual girl. There were some vibes, but they said they wouldn't do anything publicly just for male gratification. Maybe something happened in the bathroom, you can never tell.

Either way, the gallery hops are always a good time. Nothing like having a night full of pretentious psuedo-intellectual art talk, fueled by orgies of alcohol and topped off by finding yourself passed out in the bathroom, your shirt ripped wide open, and your pants unbuttoned, like this: Redacted.

P.S.- if you find this to be stupid, offensive and/or in poor taste, please check out the cover of this week's New York magazine (featuring Dash Snow, see below.) Apparently these are "Warhol's Children" Here, just for good measure, here's an enlargement with better clarity:

This is a picture of Dash Snow with his other buddy artists. Whatever it takes to become a "downtown legend" I guess.

Just another pretentious artist

So New York magazine has an article this week about the scion of an uber-wealthy old money New York family, downtown artist Dash Snow, who's claim to fame (besides his family) is exhibiting old newspaper articles covered with his semen, which are sold at galleries for $90k. This article is breathlessly entitled "Chasing Artist and Downtown Legend Dash Snow" and the rest of it sticks to pretentious form. Besides the fact that this article validates something that everyone already knows- that the entire art world is a hype machine built on nothing but bs (see my upcoming post on MOMA)- it also demonstrates how the media is instrumental in creating and feeding the bs.

Now before I go any further, I realize that a lot of my recent posts have presented a kind of jaded, negative tone. I would like to say that I apologize and don't mean to come across that way, I'm actually quite happy with many parts of my life- I'm excited about a lot of the projects I'm undertaking, I've just had great sex with my gf, my stock portfolio is at an all-time high, and I've also just gobbled up the most delicious tasting cheese cake. I promise to try to make the next post a little more upbeat.

That being said, I still feel it is my duty to address this "downtown legend", whose notoriety derives from putting his semen up on walls. If it is all a big prank, I have to say it's on par with the stuff Borat would do. However, as the above article reveals, these people (and the sycophants who surround them) take themselves way too seriously, which makes the whole thing abysmally pathetic and depressing. This reminds of the time, probably a few years ago, that I realized that all the photographers I had once admired, like Andres Serrano, Richard Kern, Cindy Sherman, and Nan Goldin were all hacks. Now that was really depressing. Kind of like realizing as a kid that Santa doesn't really exist. The only ones who I liked who I still think are masters are Jan Saudek and Floria Sigismondi.

Bottom line, the hype around certain artists, and in general the entire climate of the art-industry as such as it is only proves that to succeed as an artist, you must be good at the following things in the following exact proper sequence:

1. Marketing
2. More Marketing
3. Even more marketing
4. Concept
5. Technical skill/ability

Notice technical skill and ability comes last. I would like anyone to prove me wrong.

Reminds me of a cinematography instructor I had who was relating some things from the past in his career. He told us there was a dp who was absolutely awful, terrible, had no skill, taste or ability, just the absolute worst cinematographer anyone had ever worked with. However, none of his clients knew any better and couldn't tell the difference. Also, interestingly enough, everyone who knew him wanted to work for him and be associated with his crew, even though they were much more gifted than him. Someone asked why that was. The instructor looked at the questioner as if it was the dumbest question in the world and said "Because the guy got work." He was a great salesperson and knew how to network his way into work. Technical and cinematographic skill had nothing to do with it.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The chances of becoming a Hollywood director

I read somewhere the other day that 1 out of 16,000 people will become professional athletes and that got me thinking about what were the chances of someone becoming a Hollywood director. To qualify, I mean specifically a big budget feature film director, not someone who makes a professional living directing commercials, PSAs, videos, wedding videos, news journalism, or any other things such as that. People can and do make good livings doing such things, but for this exercise, I am limiting discussion to only big budget feature film directors. For the sake of argument as to what films can be included, I will limit it to films that get wide screen theatrical distribution in the US in any given year. And more specifically, films that had wide screen DOMESTIC release, as opposed to say, a film from Denmark exhibited in a few art house theaters in select cities. This site has some interesting statistics:

International Release Comparisons

In 2005, there were 320 domestic releases in the US. That number seems consistent over the previous years as well, so let's stick with this number and play with it. These releases account for anything and everything in the theaters: big budget Hollywood movies, Indiewood films, truly independent cinema, as well as documentaries, and the like. Everything.

If you assume that most working directors, shoot a film once every two or three years, we can multiply 320 by three let's say, and we get 960. That means that if each director shot only one film once every three years, there would only be room in the market for 960 directors. Since Hollywood probably only accounts for a percentage of all those films released, we can safely assume that most directors did not make a huge income from each film. So if they shoot only one film every 3 years, and they made $500,000 per film, that comes out to only $166,000 per year. Not bad, but not great considering you had to be in the top 1000 to make that. Of course some directors are quite prolific and shoot a film every year, like Spielberg, but let's just stick with these numbers for now.

Let's get back to the analogy of professional athletes. There is about 1500 professional NFL players, 750 NHL and MLB players, and 400 NBA players out there. If we add that up, let's say there are 3500 professional athletes in the 4 major sports. If we add up all the other professional sports such as soccer, golf, tennis, hell, let's even include bowling and poker for all I care, you're talking about approximately 5000 professional athletes in the entire US. Let's all say that most of these athletes, especially in the 4 major sports, are in the 22-32 year old bracket, a 10 year age range. There are retired athletes in their 40s and 50s, etc, but they are not playing any longer. Assuming these numbers are somewhat accurate, let's do some math:

If there are 5000 professional athletes in the US, that means that on average there are 100 athletes born in every one of the 50 states. But that is over a 10 year age range. So, per year, we can say that on average, in EVERY STATE, there will be born 10 future professional athletes PER YEAR. Yes, wrap your mind around that, only TEN PER YEAR PER STATE.

Now remember these 5000 athletes are mostly in their 20s and early 30s. Conversely, wide release directors can be of any age, ranging from hotshots in their 20s to 60s and 70s. And while there are 5000 pro athletes, we counted less than 1000 directors. It gets worse if we count all the athletes who are retired and no longer playing, who are in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s. For arguments sake, let's quadruple that number to find out the number of living persons who have made a living as professional athletes and we get 20,000- more than 20 times the amount of living, working feature film directors.

If the chances of becoming a professional athlete are slim to none, the chances of becoming a big-time big-budget director is non-existent.

And professional athletes get paid way more too.

Doesn't affect my decisions or my life, I love what I do and I'm passionate, but just some food for thought.

Proof that film festivals sometimes don't even view the submissions

Here's the dirty little secret about film festivals: most of them are curated and some hardly even view all of the submissions. What does curated mean? It means most films have already been pre-selected by the film festival director, or curator, from a group of personal contacts and prearranged deals. Some films are presented at film festivals without even having been viewed by the film festival staff beforehand. Ever heard of the situation with Brown Bunny at Cannes? It was the most reviled and hated film ever at the festival. Later, Vincent Gallo defended himself by stating that the film wasn't even done and he was pressured into presenting at Cannes even though he didn't even have a rough cut yet. Yes, he had a spot at Cannes reserved even though no one had even seen the film because not only was it not finished, but they didn't even have a rough cut of it. This is what I mean by curated.

First, before I get any further, let me say that I have been selected by and attended film festivals before so this is not a rant by someone who is upset at not selected by festivals. That being said, I've always wondered whether my films are always properly viewed and how would I know if they were or not?

Things came to a head recently when there were some suspicious circumstances revolving around my submission and a film festival (which shall go nameless) and I decided to address the issue. Basically, I submitted my film to said film festival through, the film festival submission site back in August. This site allows you to also track whether or not the film was received and logged, etc. I had a lot of things on my plate, as I was shooting another feature film at the time, so I totally forgot about the submission and only checked back in October when decisions were supposed to have been made. I saw that a number of people had already gotten their decision (based on things I read on the message boards) even though my submission showed a red dot, which indicated they had not received my film yet. I contacted the film festival and they called me back indicating that they had no idea what happened to my film, they couldn't find it, and generally had no idea what I was talking about. I contacted WAB (withoutabox) to get a refund. WAB promptly responded and said I would be getting a refund of my submission fee. Half an hour later, I called the festival back, at which point they completely retracted their previous statements and said that they had indeed received my film, and had reviewed it, but had not made a decision yet. (BTW, I knew that this was not true, since other individuals had received their decisions and the festival was only a week away.) I was notified by WAB that I wouldn't get a refund and the next day the festival emailed me, notifying me that I had not made the cut.

Here is their email:

"Dear Michael,

Thank you so much for your submission to xxxxxxx Film
Festival. Your film, "Obsession" was reviewed during the last week in
August. We certainly did enjoy viewing your film. However, we regret to
inform you that your film was not selected to screen in this year's
festival. We thank you and wish you much success in the future."

I was completely busy with other events in my life at the time, such as finishing my other film and I let it go for a while, even though things didn't sit well with me. Earlier this month, I had a chance to review my previous submissions for the past year and I decided to contact the festival again.

Here was my email:

"xxxxx, thank you for your consideration. I know it's been a few months, but I was just reviewing some of the festivals I had submitted to, and it refreshed my memory concerning this festival. I can't help but be suspicious of the circumstances surrounding the submission and evaluation of my film. There is just something telling me that perhaps my film was never viewed at all, but my submission fee was taken nonetheless. I hope I am wrong.

The suspicious circumstances include the following events:

1) I sent out a dvd of Obsession in August, but Withoutabox showed a red dot near my submission until Oct 10, the date that I contacted both you and WAB, indicating the dvd wasn't received
2) Your initial phone call and voice message to me indicated that you had no idea about the film and did not know when I had sent it or if you had received it
3) Only when I requested my money back from WAB and called you back, then suddenly you had found the film and indicated that you had notes about it dating back to August
4) You also indicated that xxxxxx had not made their decisions yet, but would get back to me, even though other people from WAB message boards indicated that they had already heard from xxxxxx in early October
5) I received an email from WAB that my $50 would be credited back to me, however right after your initial phone call, I received another email indicating that xxxxxx contacted them and stated that they had reviewed my film, so I wouldn't be getting my $50 back

All of this makes me believe that my film was never received and/or reviewed and that it was only so claimed in order to keep my submission fee. I'm sure that you understand that it would be very frustrating and unfair if I sent in my hard earned money with the expectation that my film would at least be reviewed and watched and it was not. It would be even more unfortunate if I was mislead in the process. As I stated, I hope I am wrong, but I'm sure you can also understand my concerns. I know that all festivals keep notes of films that were reviewed, so it would be great if you could at least share with me anything about the film, plot, or synopsis which would indicate that the film was indeed watched. If you cannot provide this information, I will ask for my money back. If that is declined I will contact WAB and also communicate all of this information to the WAB message boards and other aspiring filmmakers. If the film was watched and hated, that's fine. However it is not fine if the film was not watched at all, but my submission fee was taken.

Once again, I don't mean to make a wrong assumption about what happened here. I wish the best success for your film festival. However, I feel suspicious about the circumstances, and as a struggling filmmaker, I want to make sure that my film was at least watched. If the film was watched and rejected, I'm sure you would have no problem sharing with me info that would set my mind at ease. If that is the case, then I apologize in advance for any of my suspicions and misunderstandings.

Michael Aaron"

I didn't know what to expect, but I felt fairly confident that they had not in fact reviewed my film and were just taking my money. I expected them to deny my insinuations, but didn't know how they would respond. I felt that my threat of spreading their practices on the WAB message boards might be enough to at least get a refund. I didn't really care about the money, I just wanted to know the truth, and for them to know that I knew and that they couldn't get away with it. Film festivals are supposed to help emerging filmmakers, not screw them over.

Well, my questions were answered very soon as I got an almost instantaneous response:


I understand your concerns, however, I can assure you that your
submission was reviewed. Please send us your address and we will be
happy to refund your submission fee of $50."

I promptly emailed my address and I got my check in a few days. If this isn't a concession of wrong-doing, I don't know what is. The proof that I was seeking is right here. If they had truly reviewed the film, it would've taken them a few moments to get the information and prove to me that they had seen it. Clearly, they knew they didn't know a damn thing about the film, but took my money and they figured $50 was a small price to pay to avoid any drama.

Bottom line is, some/many/most (pick the best answer) film festivals don't even watch your films, but still take your money.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The economics of theatrical distribution

I think it is a well- known fact that most films lose money at the box office, and only recoup their money and make a profit through other channels of distribution, such as DVD sales/rentals and cable rights, etc. I found an absolutely fascinating blog by Mark Cuban, who seems at wit's end trying to find an effective business model for theatrical distribution. He fields all ideas from people out there in cyberspace, even offering a job for anyone who comes up with a good solution. Alas, I think he was a little disappointed with the results, but it lead to another entry with even further analysis. Really good, amazing stuff here that should be read by anyone interested in film/media creation and distribution.

New York - not a town for artists

When traveling, I am often asked by people who live in other parts of the country what New York is like and whether or not they should consider moving here, etc. Often times, the conversation is focused on what a lively, crazy, energetic (fill in the blank) town New York is. The truth of the matter, though is that New York is no longer a vibrant destination for artists. And the reason is two-fold: 1) New York has become so expensive to live in that artists have only two choices, which is to live in some substandard ghetto or to spend every living waking hour working and 2) new technology has allowed media creators to be creators literally anywhere in the world, and they no longer need to live in big cities, such as New York. I will handle both issues separately.

First, New York has changed significantly over the past 20 years. I think gentrification is the applicable word here. Almost every single person I meet is a lawyer or financial professional. Even cool looking people who go to clubs are lawyers and financial professionals. New York is a town of big corporations, and more specifically big corporations who have merged and coalesced into oligarchies reigning over different industries. New York has always been the capital of the financial, marketing, publishing, media, and fashion industries. It's just as these industries have grown, so too have they taken over more and more office and city space, hence driving up real estate prices, in turn driving out of Manhattan anyone who cannot afford ultra expensive apartments, which happen to be the size of closets. From my subjective, unscientific viewpoint, it appears to me that more and more people are moving to New York to pursue financial careers rather than artistic careers. It's true that Wall Street was booming in the 80s, which was immortalized in films and books, but if 50% of people moving to and/or living in Manhattan were financiers, lawyers, and other assorted yuppies, my best guesstimate would be that 85% fall in this bracket now in the 00s. I have seen people move to New York to be artists, singers, actors, or whatever, then spend the next two years accomplishing absolutely nothing artistic while spending every waking moment shuttling back and forth between two grunt jobs, only to move back to Peoria, Illinois, or wherever else in middle America shortly thereafter. Bottom line is that being an artist in New York is tough and lonely- there is less of a community than before, and you're gonna have to bust your ass just to make ends meet. That is unless you end up in the cubicle like everyone else.

Second, the internet as well as reduced prices for digital equipment has enabled people from anywhere in the world to create decent quality content at low costs and distribute it worldwide, or at least be able to have the opportunity to market themselves worldwide. Sure, this is totally grassroots and can't compete with the media oligarchs, but many people have started this way and were able to launch their careers. Of course, it's been a small minority, but that's the nature of art and entertainment regardless. The point is that anyone living in Mississippi or North Dakota or wherever can now make a film, for example, with low cost equipment, that has production values unheard of before for that kind of money, get it into a major film festival (if it is good enough) and promote and market it on the internet for next to nothing for a worldwide audience. People who live in Mississippi or North Dakota or not in any particular advantage or disadvantage in regard to people living in New York City in this regard, for example. Maybe I would qualify that for filmmakers living in LA, since that is where the industry is located, but the benefits of living in NYC for DIY filmmakers is absolutely negligible.

Quick question: name as many musical bands and filmmakers who emerged out of NYC in the last five years as possible. Just what I thought, a tough question, there have been some but not many. Off the top of my head, the Strokes hail from NYC, but they achieved their kickstart in the UK. I honestly can't think of any other bands, but even if I could, here's something to ponder- for every band that you can think of that hails from NYC and achieved national recognition, I can think of twenty from other parts of the country. For every Strokes, there's a bunch of White Stripes (Detroit) or Killers (Las Vegas) out there. In fact, based on my observations as a music promoter (back in the day), I have seen plenty of bands move from NYC to LA because of the outrageous rents and lack of community here in NYC. 'Nuff said.

Why am I still in New York? Well, I've been here for 10 years now and I call it home. But I'm definitely not ruling out a move in the next several years, depending on how certain things shape up.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

My view of film

I decided to re-post something I posted in the "bio" page of my website a few days ago because I think it offers some clear thoughts of my views on art and film, which in turn, helps me to clarify my own thoughts for myself:

"I would consider myself an art purist. I believe that art has the ability, and in fact, the responsibility, of expressing human reality and nature at its most fundamental core. I believe the best art is brutal, frank, and unabashed in realizing its intentions. I am interested in making the audience feel something when they see my work, whether it is the joy of love on screen, or the pain of loss- most important of all, beyond such functions as plot, characterization, and dialogue, is the elicitation of primal emotion from the audience. This is not to mean that things should be done for effect only, rather that when the basic structure of the film is developed, emotional integrity and truth should always be considered. I would definitely consider my films to be "art house" in nature. They focus on human relationships, human experiences, and real human situations. I am interested primarily in psychological realism and the subtext of communication. I choose to create work based on that which I am familiar with, my desire is to inform the audience of their own selves which they choose to ignore or forget. I don't necessarily believe that conventional format is always the best way to tell a story. I can and will employ jump cuts, shifting narrators, non-chronological sequences, or any other device, to tell the story if I feel it will be effective.

On the set, I like to work quickly, focusing more on spontaneity and emotional realism in the peformance. Before shooting, I spend months in pre-production fleshing out the characters with the cast. Most rehearsals are extended improv sessions, focused on developing and understanding the characters. With these rehearsals, I, in conjunction with the actors, am often able to add extra scenes and enhance the script. Once we are ready to shoot, the actors are intimately familiar with their roles, and I give them lots of leeway to improvise and keep going even beyond the script. I'll often shoot several different takes, ones which are strictly from the script, and then others which are strictly improvised. EVen though I am adept at many technical aspects of filmmaking, I am most concerned with the story and performances, over technical considerations. Many films are made with technical excellence, but with absolutely no story or artistic merit. I see myself as an artist first, and filmmaker second. To be more specific, I am a conceptual artist moreso than a filmmaker or photographer. At this level, where most of my work is funded by myself, it is far more important for me to tell my story exactly the way I want to, rather than do something I don't really believe in or feel passionate about. I have refused funding in the past when it became clear that the investors wanted to change things about the film and would impinge on my creative control. There are many ways to make money, and if that was the focus, I would just work on other people's projects exclusively. If it is my project, then I do it for passion, and nothing justifies dulling or destroying the passion I feel for what I'm doing. When I gear up to make a film, I put all my blood, sweat and tears into it. As a result, I expect nothing less than the same from the people heavily involved in the project, such as main crew and actors. I'm not sure where my films place in the marketplace, but they are emotionally and artistically powerful and I believe in what I'm doing."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Sometimes a film comes along that is a real breakthrough, one that's made by an unknown genius who's work of breathtaking brilliance lands into a major festival (Sundance) and unleashes its radiance onto the welcoming masses. This film is not it. Well, it was made by an unknown director and it did make Sundance and it did get a widespread release, but it was not genius and it was not brilliant. Frankly in fact, it wasn't even good. Or OK for that matter. No, it was just terrible. So to be precise this was a film by an unknown who's incompetent film lands into a major festival (Sundance) and unleashes its twisted, contrived, incomprehensible mess of percieved radiance onto the unsuspecting masses. What happened here? Well, it's a simple case of the emperor with no clothes.

This film centers around two young engineers who while tinkering with other projects, discover some science which allows them to build a box to travel in time. Once they do travel in time, they discover all kinds of paradoxes which unravels their lives. There's nothing else to know here folks, even though a lot of other stuff happens, but it just doesn't make any sense nor do we really care.
First, there is really no character development at all. The entire first half hour of the movie is nothing but dialogue- incomprehensible dialogue due to their heavy science talk and very poor audio, which makes turning on the subtitles a necessity. Even if you do turn on the subtitles, you still don't know who's saying what because four characters are all talking at the same time over on top of each other. The science that they discuss concerns the mechanics and theory behind the time machine and employs very big science words which will make no sense to the average viewer. Well, guess what? It makes no sense to anyone. My girlfriend is about to get her PhD from Princeton in physics and she stated that although the words they use are real scientific terms, they actually make no sense when strung together in the sentences and contexts used in the film. I did a little research and looked at reader reviews on Netflix and there were at least 3 or 4 scientists and/or engineers who wrote in stating the same thing. Even though they had spent most of their lives acquiring a high level of scientific knowledge, the film still didn't make any sense. Even without taking anyone else's word for it, if there really was a science for creating a time machine, wouldn't there be a time machine already? Think about it. And that is very relevant considering how much high-brow science talk there is in this boring, borish film.

In the second part, our heroes enter the time machine and go back in time to place winning stock purchases and make lots of money. Then everything goes to hell as they have to deal with the ramifications of time travel and avoiding their "doubles." At this point, a variety of characters and plot points enter and quickly leave the story- something about a murder at a party, some guy on the floor, someone getting poisoned. Not really sure what happened but it was so disjointed, with no explanation or back story that it just made no sense. Further, I didn't care about finding out because there was no character development so I didn't care at all about the characters or what happened to them. Terrible filmmaking all around, much of the film was extremely grainy. This was a low-budget film, it can't compete with Hollywood for effects and stars, etc, but what it can do very effectively is tell a story with powerful characters that we care about. While I commend Shane Carruth, the director, for making a feature on film for only 7k (I'm sure that was only for production, not post), it is astounding for me that he got his film into a major festival while making a no-budget film with absolutely no character development, the killer of all no budget films.

So, going back to the original fairytale ride of this film- Shane Carruth, unknown makes a 7k film that launches him in Sundance. What they'll tell you is that this is such a high concept film, so brilliant in its intricacies that to truly get it, it must be watched multiple times, and even then a background in science would be beneficial. Well, I am here to cut through the bs and tell you that there is nothing to get, there is no science, there's just Star Trek talk. Accomplished research scientists don't understand it because big, important words are just added for effect and the dialogue adds up to nothing. So if research scientists don't understand it, do you honestly think that the jury of Sundance, a group of filmmakers and whoever else, who probably save for some rare exception have the same science knowledge as the rest of the population, did understand it? Does anyone honestly believe that? What happened here is that someone (who didn't understand it) thought it was brilliant (because they didn't understand it) and then told someone else who also thought it was brilliant (because they didn't understand it and the other person thought it was brilliant and they didn't want to seem stupid) who then told someone else (to make themselves seem smart again) who then thought it was brilliant (to keep up with all the seemingly smart people who got it) and so on and so forth. And pretty soon you get a bunch of people who think a film is brilliant and they don't know why. The end.

Save yourself some time and avoid this pretentious dog.

The abundance of choice

There was a study done recently where some researchers put out a variety of jams for consumers to purchase in a store, about 3 or 4 varieties. Sales were brisk as consumers were interested in trying the varieties and seeing which one they liked the best. Then the researchers placed even more, much more varieties of jam, twenty or so, thinking that this would stimulate sales even more. However, to their astonishment, what happened was the complete opposite. Frustrated by the enormous amount of choices, consumers decided to spare themselves the ordeal of having to make a difficult choice, and ended up buying nothing instead. Apparently, the presence of more choices had an inhibiting effect on consumer behavior. Researchers concluded that the less options (within reason) that consumers are presented with, the more likely they are to buy.

In my days as a music promoter, this reality was all too clear, as the plethora of choices that New Yorkers had at their disposal for spending their nights made New York the hardest city to organize events in, although New York is the largest city in America. Think about it: New York, the largest city is the hardest city in which to get a turnout. Of course, this is logical since, in addition to more people, there is also more competition here.

However, the abundance of choice goes far beyond competition, as can be seen by the jam experiment. What does this have to do with film? Well, a lot, since this overabundance of choice has also influenced my "film community" activities as well. For example, in the past few months, Michel Gondry and Darren Aronofsky were both giving talks at the Apple Store in SoHo. Was I there? No, even though I was interested in going and even invited some friends. It is true that both days were stormy, rainy, miserable days, and I would have had to go out of my way to get there, but if I was back in Ft. Lauderdale (circa 1996) I most definitely would have been there, no excuses. Back in the day, I drove 1 hour to see Oliver Stone speak in Boca and I drove down to Lincoln Rd. in Miami Beach on a 30 degree day (yes, in Miami) to see Kenneth Anger. Of course, there was hardly anything film related at all happening in Southern Florida at the time, so having any prominent director down there was cause for treating it as a big day. In NYC? Well, not so much. I live near the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, and of late, I have missed Forrest Whitaker, Tony Jaa, as well as a whole host of others, which I can't remember right now present their latest films. Granted, being a member of the museum, I have seen quite a few films there and have seen some prominent directors like Francois Ozon present their work, and I was busy those days after all, but something is still wrong when I have absolutely no remorse or regret about not stepping out of my apartment to go a short distance to see some amazing directors and films.

Maybe I am just jaded, or maybe these particular directors don't really move me deeply, or maybe I've moved beyond a starstruck attitude and just see these guys as ordinary people who may or may not be boring to hear talk, and perhaps I realize that, having been to a lot of these things before, it's not all that mind-blowing and amazing after all. But maybe there is more to it than that. Maybe it's a New York thing.

Yeah, blame it on New York.