March 4th 2007

Exotic film

I haven't seen many films during this year's Fantasporto, but still got the good luck of watching two which would become award-winning. Here are some short reviews:

Hana — Hirokazu Koreeda (Japan)
The samurai flick as a dramatic comedy, Hana depicts life in a village in early 18th century Japan, in which a somewhat coward young samurai struggles to overcome procrastination and proceeds with his revenge against his father's murderer. There seems to be plenty of attention to detail in the movie, and there are some funny moments, but overall it's perhaps too long and a tad boring.

The Secret Life of Happy People - Stéphane Lapointe (Canada)
Quite close to the American indie formula — a seemingly happy family with quite a lot of nasty secrets — features some fine comedic situations and all in all it's a simple story of a father stealing his son's girlfriend. However, the last third was somewhat annoying, featuring a somewhat embarassing climax and a half-baked happy ending.

The Bothersome Man - Jens Lien (Norway)
Jacques Tati (it has touches of Playtime) meets the IKEA catalog, with a touch of surreal morbid humour. We follow a man struggling to adapt to life in a strange dystopian city in which everyone is nice to you, TV only shows home improvement and furniture advertising, and suicide is impossible. There are obvious nods at Charlie Kaufman-esque surrealism there, and the blend makes this the best film I've watched in the festival. It won a Special Mention of the Jury, so it seems others agreed.

Isabella - Pang Ho-Cheung (China)
I'm a sucker for Wong Kar-Wai-esque stories about bent policemen with soft spots, and Isabella fits the description. The movie got me quite curious about the former Portuguese colony of Macau, such a strange hybrid it looks (and then there's this character always talking about the evils of Portuguese food). Macau is definitely a place to visit someday. As for the movie, it's quite good (as imitations go that is, but still short of Kar-Wai's work), and possibly a deserving winner of the festival's Orient Express competition. As for the leading lady Isabella Leong (the festival's Best Actress), I have to disagree with the jury, I found her acting little over average.

The Red Cockatoo — Dominik Graf (Germany)
A piece of East German no(t)stalgia set in the early 60s, just before the building of the Berlin Wall, is essentially a love triangle story set in a conflict background in which sex, drugs and rock & roll battle against the Stasi and East German regime in its early days (it's interesting to compare it with very excelent — and which I believe a solid Foreign Film Oscar winner — The Lifes of Others, which depicts the GDR in the 80s). Red Cockatoo has genuinely good moments, but overall I found it too uneven and its character development somewhat spineless.···

February 25th 2007

Glitz and glamour

Not exactly like the Oscars' night but... the Porto International Film Festival has officially started last Friday. I still haven't got the chance (and the will) to see some movies, but will go on a binge later today as I intend to watch two or three films in a row. However, as the Rivoli Theatre sits on the way from the subway to my office I do pass there every day, and it never fails to impress me how people seem to dress up (increasingly better each year) to go watch some flicks. It seems more and more people have the kind of wet dream in which some hot producer or director will pick them up based on the good looking clothes, expensive haircut, or that horribly obvious t-shirt with the sillouette of a film camera. Look: it just won't happen. Movies do require real people to get made, and real people wear faded jeans and have dandruff. Production companies sort out through thousands of resumés to assemble production teams, actors have to appear in casting sessions. Love at first sight doesn't fit the system.

Enjoy the pictures, then go work on your own. Which is something that happens outside festivals, and comes with bad quick shaves.···

A map of worldwide emergencies, in realtime.···

Things other people accomplished when they were your age. Lifehacker suggests looking for inspiration, I just find it a depressing reminder.···

'Fuck-you-money', twenty-five really extreme examples of.···

The visual effects of Children of Men. Even with computer aid, it's still amazing how Alfonso Cuarón pulled off two of the most complex sequence-shots in film history. Hitchcock (which during the 40s obsessed with long takes) would be green with envy.···

January 25th 2007

That's quite a mess

Proceeding with the good housekeeping I promised myself to look into in January, here's — finally — an update to the Land of Shapes, my design & photography portfolio. The site itself may be the exact opposite of webdesign correctness this century, containing all major offenses imaginable (a pop-up window, frames, iframes, table layouts, etecetera), but I like this design so much I once again will stick with it, and I can't be convinced to waste my time replacing tables with divs since in the end, as the site proved to be working in every browser I tested it, nobody cares. It's meant to be experienced by people, not digested by Google, after all.···

Chris Jordan's Running the Numbers, where statistics, photography and Photoshop collide with spectacular (and a bit overwhelming) results. Kottke ···

January 15th 2007

January 11th 2007

The filters

After playing for some time with the Filter Forge beta (the nodal filter creator for Photoshop I mentioned before), I came up with two color correction filters. Behold:

Little Bullet aims to emulate the Magic Bullet Editors color correction plugin for Adobe Premiere. It doesn't feel exactly the same, but does get similar results.

Little Room, although not nearly as comprehensive, does the color manipulations I use most when playing with Develop panel in the Adobe Lightroom beta.

Of course, you need Filter Forge to play with these. In a perfect world, Filter Forge would compile self-contained plugins for Photoshop, along with plugins for After Effects and every other app that does image manipulation via plugins. Of course, that would render Filter Forge worthless for everyone but the odd geek while destroying the whole software plugin market as it got flooded by free Magic Bullet clones made by people with a somewhat basic knowledge of image processing and a few hours' spare time. But then again, the filters I did are just like about 50% of every commercial plugin that exists (and 90% of color manipulation plugins, including the Magic Bullet for Editors color corrector): they just present things the main application already does in a more convenient interface. So there. Filter Forge is fun to play with (if you're into that kind of stuff, mind you), but I imagine one day Adobe will revamp the Actions functionality in Photoshop properly and will render FF irrelevant.···

January 10th 2007

Information ruling the nation

The Internet. Graham was in good form today.···

A very big and comprehensive list of video plugins for multiple editing and effects apps.···

Very large resolution images, viewable with a Google Maps-like interface. The urban subjects images are quite astonishing, you zoom in and zoom in and zoom in...···

Public domain music. "Like iTunes, only better"? They could use a better slogan, though.···

Say 'blogosphere' again! Should have bought one of these a few of years ago.···

Even though I'm quite suspicious of the whole Dale Carnegie cult, these things are just like a road accident you just can't ignore and look away: How to Network, For Introverts. Advice that might improve your life.···

This is why BibliOdyssey is a wonderful wunderkammer of illustration: The Motifs of Understated Architecture. And you thought you were living in a new baroque age... (In related news, here's that belt buckle found at the Castelo de Tomar.)···

January 9th 2007

January 5th 2007

All the fallen expectations

Still on the subject of two-thousand-o-six, the year — what about me? Looking back, 2006 didn't amount to much. O-Five was a rather shitty year at a personal level, but with a warm and hopeful finale. By the end of December, I was rolling in high gear, baby. Then came O-Six and everything slowed down. It wasn't terrible, but not much interesting either.

On a professional level, I kept on with my teaching and failed my personal resolution of doing one 'no-budget' short film every two months on average. I did release three short movies (one being Bad Day which was shot back in mid-2005, and not very good), and then shot another one, then codenamed Gloria (the final title will actually be Invisible Women), which was meant to be a simple affair but has proven to be the most challenging edit of my young career and consequentely I forbid myself from starting work on other stuff until I finish it. Parallel to this, I believe a script I wrote called Celestial Kingdom is by far my finest work yet and does deserves the existence of a Budget, so I'm seeking ways to finance it. I've also got an opening concerning documentary filmmaking, I'll see how it works out in 2007.

Personally, O-Six has been... 'mellow' is the word to describe it. Again, I haven't traveled much, besides short one or two-day trips Somewhere to do Something and then return back to Porto (I can't bear the terms 'business trips'). Had some good moments with friends, and a few annoying moments. I had the most fun organizing a good premiere party for Bad Day, and found out I actually enjoy having to meet new people, fighting my noxious introversion in the process. And I did spend 2006 thinking a lot about my Deepest Particularities of Being (that is, those stupid neuroses) which more than often are my greatest opponent in things such as relationships with the opposite sex or the ability to hype my own work. Quite often demoralizing, but at times good for learning how to hack myself and circumvent my demons.

Still, a blog is no place for self-pity. And what self-pity? The world is going to be blown-up to pieces eventually (and then the Sun goes supernova anyway), Nature is randomly cruel, and there are seven billion other human beings defending their own interests, so what choice do individuals really have? The only answer is, a choice of perspective.

For two-thousand-o-seven, I choose Optimism. Despite all the uglyness.···

January 1st 2007

Some closure

During 2006 I saw 65 different movies at the theatre, excluding festivals. 2005 was an interesting year in which my favourite three movies included a Hollywood film (which would then go to win the Oscar for best movie of the year — perhaps the first time a favourite of mine ever won), a French film and even a Portuguese film. The same thing didn't happen in 2006 though. There were many good American movies, but the European production I got a chance to see here was disappointing when compared to previous years. Here are the three movies I enjoyed the most in 2006:

Me and You and Everyone We Know, by Miranda July. It's such a rich film it's hard to describe in few words, but had me taken by the second minute, in a scene in which the kids are doing ASCII art in front of their computer. In its skeleton, is a simple boy-meets-girl story, but rendered in an delightfully artistic way. Exhibit A in the case to prove narrative and Art in film aren't — and can't — be mutually exclusive.

Children of Men, by Alfonso Cuáron. I believe it'll be seen as the Blade Runner of the next twenty years. Once you get past the somewhat silly main premise you'll see it's just a pretext for one of the most nightmarishly believeable visions of the future ever shot on film. Because it's about now.

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, by Tommy-Lee Jones. In contrast with the other two, here's a straight simple story about a cowboy's quest to bury his friend. But done so very right, touching at times, outrageously funny at others.

Other great movies of 2006 include:

- Match Point, by Woody Allen;
- Munich, by Steven Spielberg;
- Breakfast on Pluto, by Neil Jordan;
- The Departed, by Martin Scorsese;
- Inside Man, by Spike Lee;
- Volver, by Pedro Almodóvar,

So as you can tell, it has been a good year for big-name directors (Spielberg, if you recall what I said last year, once again proves his carreer is one sinewave alternating between genius and utter shit), with an exception of note I'll write further down. But it was also a very good year for some people who are bound to also join the Pantheon of Directing Niceness:

- Good Night, and Good Luck, by George Clooney;
- Marie Antoinette, by Sofia Coppola;
- The Secret Life of Words, by Isabel Coixet;
- Babel, by Alejandro González Iñárritu.

Therefore it seems 2006 is the year of Mexico Triumphant. Don't forget that The Three Burials... is also written by Guillermo Arriaga, Babel's screenwriter. Interesting that the two Spanish movies I did see during the year got both my personal five-star rating.

What about the worst? Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Da Vinci Code, Unknown, Dejá Vú, and The Black Dahlia were the year's canned turds. Let's not forget, these are movies actually worse than X-Men III. I never expect anything good from the likes of Brett Ratner or Ron Howard, but Brian de Palma is 2006 equivalent of Terry Gilliam in 2005.

An aside, I saw Catwoman the other day on television. I couldn't take my eyes off how bad it is. The editing is perhaps the worst I ever seen in a movie.···

December 31st 2006