29 January, 2010

"I felt unbearably happy all evening."

Zooey was in dreamy top form. The announcer had them off on the subject of housing developments, and the little Burke girl said that she hated houses that all looked alike --meaning a long row of "development" houses. Zooey said they were "nice." He said it would be very nice to come home and be in the wrong house. To eat dinner with the wrong people by mistake, sleep in the wrong bed by mistake, and kiss everybody good-bye in the morning thinking they were your own family. He said he even wished everyone in the world looked alike. He said you'd keep thinking everybody you met was your wife or your mother or father, and people would always be throwing their arms around each other wherever they went, and it would look "very nice."

-- From Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters, by J.D. Salinger

26 January, 2010

PDX By Way of Cardboard

Back when I was growing up, my family would spend a few weeks every summer on the shores of Puget Sound at our cabin (incidentally, by and large, the majority of my dreams still take place just there, inside that inlet, where I'm pretty sure I learned to swim). Because the cabin was so rarely used (not to mention it was old as dirt), there would inevitably be a year's worth of repairs waiting for us. Bushwhacking, painting, patching, digging -- you name it. Under the leadership of my father, my brave family would take care and tend to all the chores in a single day. We called this day, for whatever reason, Work Party. It was always great, and it left the rest of the holiday open for my young self's more passionate pursuits, like throwing rocks and opening my eyes under water.

The Sirocco Research Lab has been having a Work Party for roughly the past three months. This week Adi, Martin, and I have spent basically all of our waking moments re-creating the city of Portland out of cardboard for the Portland-based company Badge Bomb. It was one of those old fashioned draw-the-curtains, don't-leave-your-home-ever kind of weeks. There was a ton of kneeling, tracing, razor blading, crayoning, hot gluing, sewing, and gabbing. On Friday night Martin Morse may have told one of the best anecdotes I've ever heard. I don't want to give it away, because it's really the type of story you just need to hear. I'll tease you, though, with his brilliant opening line:

I had one match, a bag of marshmallows, and nothing but time.

We listened to a lot of jazz, talked a lot of shit about kids who had the 100+ crayon boxes in elementary school, and watched a city rise out of a pile of cardboard.

Here's a quick photo montage of the Badge Bomb Work Party:

This is the taped out space for the diorama with Adi's body as a reference point for size.

Landmark Portland buildings in two dimensions...

... sharpen the crayons...

...and then landmark Portland buildings in three dimensions with Mt. Hood in the distance.

Stumptown Coffee sign.

Portland, Oregon inside the interior of a Russian Naval Office.

We're hoping to have this project done tonight, because tomorrow afternoon Ben, Katie, Annie, and Doug are all flying in to help us finish off Red Moon. Left to make today are some signs, a couple of bridges, and the sky.

Let's go!

Finished product update:

The Sun Waving His Ass Off at Some Flowers

19 January, 2010

Brother Shirts: Hello, Henry, Charlie, and William

Two years ago for Christmas I made my nephew Henry his own private children's show. Last year I illustrated and bound a story book for Henry and the-then-recently-acquired Charlie called, The I Love You Comet. This year, now with a William hanging around, I made the babies brother uniforms to wear.

To wear when the troops need to be rallied. To wear when things are looking their most grim. When you feel like you don't have a friend in the world. When all you want is to look at your comrade and see their matching crest beaming back to you. To know in the face of hard times, without words, someone is saying, "I'm on your side."

Which is especially convenient for Henry, as Charlie and William are truly not the most skillful conversationalists as of yet.

All the same.

Here they are, looking good:

The H is for Henry, the C is for Charlie, and the W is for William.

17 January, 2010

Copy Copy

Here at the Lab, we got hired to cut together a trailer for a fairly magical documentary, and we thought it'd a nice touch to physically create the promotion's copy instead of using computer type/graphics. Last night we wrapped on the little-mini shoot, and we're all feeling pretty good this morning about how it went. Our collective's first experience with a client was a three day process, and a real testament to our working operation. On our own projects, our m.o. is explorative and imaginatively dynamic, but with a client we had to be much more deliberate and critical. It was a blast. Adi and I sat on the tile floor of the art store staring at paper for an hour going over color value and subjectivity.

Here's a photo montage to show a glimpse of the process:

Detail of the paper selection at Raw Materials on Main Street.

Fabric store in the garment district. Purchased: 1 yard of navy blue fabric, gold string, and pillow.

First we rubbed dirt on paper to give the color a more unique value. Martin then hand drew the type and cut it out.

Martin embroidered gold stars into the fabric, then cut and shaped it to form a theater curtain. I hot glued deconstructed clothes pins to the cardboard to give the stage a bit of a gilded feel.

Adi cut open a pillow and used the synthetic cotton inside to create a cloud mobile.

Kelly and Jaro shaped the lights while Adi situated the letters to form words.

Nearly ready for movie magic.

It took two nights to shoot all seven set ups. We listened to a lot of Queen, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Dr. Dre, and the Blow. I'll be sure to post a video of the sequence once it's cut together.

This morning I slept in, never bothered to put on pants, made breakfast for my roommates, listened to a mix I made last year at this time for a girl I had it for real bad, and realized that if every year of my life were a film still, I'd only be one second old.

12 January, 2010


Around 11 pm last night we officially re-entered production mode. It was the best I've felt all 2010. Adi and I both stripped down into our tank tops and really just laid into it. Sam Cooke was supplying the noise, our bodies were supplying the labor, and our minds were wandering all over the conversational landscape. Making things with friends is it; it is absolutely it.

RED MOON resumes shooting January 29-31! We're getting there!

11 January, 2010

Talkies -- A Year in Review

Here's the complete list of films I watched during 2009. The list is considerably shorter than 2008 largely because I didn't watch a single movie during July while getting ready for Cleo, and likewise with November/December for Red Moon. All in all, it was kind of a lukewarm year in my relationship with seeing moving pictures. While I finally saw some movies I had been meaning to see for years, I also spent a lot of time watching new releases on airplane rides. Not even valium, as it turns out, could rescue the Ben Affleck vehicle State of Play from being genuinely not enjoyable. My watching habits were also shaped on the whole by which retrospectives the Parisian movie theaters were screening, rather than Bellingham's movie-free-for-all at Film is Truth (which I'll probably miss for the rest of my life).

All the same, from start to finish, 2009:

Bicycle Thieves -- Vitorrio De Sica
Deconstructing Harry -- Woody Allen
Manhattan Murder Mystery -- Woody Allen
Loaded Weapon 1 -- Gene Quintano
Playtime -- Jacques Tati

Billy the Kid -- Jennifer Venditti A successful documentary, in my opinion, needs to flirt with surrealism. Despite the movie looking like the world you and I exist in, the world Venditti captures is entirely Billy's. What should be familiar, like the hallways of a high school, when seen through the eyes of Billy, seem both bewildering and foreign. Like a Maysles' film would, Venditti treats her eccentric protagonist with the utmost respect, never exploiting Billy's quirks and shortcomings. And like Errol Morris, Venditti is able to celebrate his eccentricities without seeming condescending.

Man on Wire -- James Marsh
Rachel Getting Married -- Jonathon Demme
Burn After Reading -- Joel and Ethan Coen
Night and Fog -- Alain Resnais
Joy Division -- Grant Gee
The Tenant -- Roman Polanski
Zero de Conduit -- Jean Vigo

Howl's Moving Castle -- Hayao Miyazaki I kind of disliked animated movies as a rule until this guy came along. I'm also a bit dubious of story driven movies, or at least, I should say, less interested in story than in technique, but Miyazaki got me on all accounts. His narrative was completely compelling and had me not only engaged, by caring. It was stunning, truly. And, I only saw it on a laptop. The added impact of a big screen, I imagine, would be remarkable.

Wet Hot American Summer -- David Wain
Lolita -- Stanley Kubrick
The Hunters -- Tony Scott
The Killing -- Stanley Kubrick
Annie Hall -- Woody Allen
Barry Lyndon -- Stanley Kubrick
Shortbus -- John Cameron Mitchell

Brazil -- Terry Gilliam I do not, for the life of me, understand why people like Terry Gilliam. Watching this film was the equivalent of being put into a windowless ball, getting thrown off a cliff, bouncing around, and having no clue what was going on, in a bad way. I was frustrated, bored, and basically upset-in-general. I think this is the movie Ronald Regan would have directed had he been taking LSD.

Shoot the Piano Player -- Francois Truffaut
The Shining -- Stanley Kubrick

Eyes Wide Shut -- Stanley Kubrick I love the use of Christmas lights throughout this movie. So simply, Kubrick underscores the theme of bourgeois escapism through practical lighting. If you ask me, being able to sum up your film's message with a mise-en-scene motif is pretty cool.

The Great Muppet Caper -- Jim Henson
2001 -- Stanley Kubrick
Stardust Memories -- Woody Allen
Rebel without a Cause -- Nicholas Ray
The General -- Buster Keaton
Blood Simple -- Joel and Ethan Coen

Slumdog Millionaire -- Danny Boyle I couldn't believe how much I didn't like this movie. Truly. Genuinely. To the point where when people ask me if I have seen it, I will say no just to end the possibility of having to spend more time dwelling on this picture.

Nightwatching -- Peter Greenaway
Spellbound -- Alfred Hitchcock
Modern Times -- Charlie Chaplin
Design for Living -- Ernst Lubistch
Magnificent Obsession -- Douglas Sirk
Milk -- Gus Van Sant
Unfaithfully Yours -- Preston Sturges
Happy-Go-Lucky -- Mike Leigh
Heaven Can Wait -- Ernst Lubitsch
Strangers on a Train -- Alfred Hitchcock
Red Desert -- Michelangelo Antonioni

Two Faced Woman -- George Cukor I have it so bad for Greta Garbo, I can't even explain.

Science of Sleep -- Michel Gondry
Being John Malkovich -- Spike Jonze

Taste of Cherry -- Abbas Kiarostami This movie was super meticulous, but also one of the most humane movies I've seen. Any story that presents a moral that life is worth living because life offers the taste of cherries is automatically a dream come true. Not to mention the ending sequence is absolutely transforming and affirming.

Wendy and Lucy -- Kelly Reichardt
The Kindler -- Cecil B. DeMille
The Lonesome Pine Trail -- Cecil B. DeMille

Old Wives For New -- Cecil B. DeMille My brother, Ludmilla, and I saw this at the Cinematheque francaise, and the silent picture was accompanied with live piano. It was the first time I've had live music accompany a movie, and it was a wonderful thing. I love cinema most when it's a performative act, a one-off. Not to mention, and I can't offer much of an explanation why, DeMille's characters look like ghosts to me, making the whole experience seem somehow occult.

Synecdoche, New York -- Charlie Kaufman

Barbarella -- Roger Vadim Later on in the evening I finished reading, "All the Kings Horses," by Michelle Bernstein on a metro ride to northern Paris where I met with friends. Several months later I was thumbing through the book, and on the last page was a to-do list for this exact day of Barbarella and friendship. Despite it not being written on the to-do list, while meeting with friends, I fell in love with someone. The ensuing several months were affected wonderfully.

The Paradise Case -- Alfred Hitchcock
Punch Drunk Love -- P.T. Anderson
The Pleasure of Being Robbed -- Joshua Safdie
Paris qui dort -- Rene Clair

17 Again -- Burr Steers Single-handedly the most bizarre movie I saw all year, to the point where it was almost thrilling.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou -- Wes Anderson
The Jerk -- Carl Reiner
Gran Torino -- Clint Eastwood
Bride Wars -- Gary Winick
The Royal Tenenbaums -- Wes Anderson
Mighty Aphrodite -- Woody Allen
Duplicity -- Tony Gilroy
Juno -- Jason Reitman
Once -- John Carney
It's All Gone Pete Tong -- Michael Dowse
Fargo -- Joel and Ethan Coen
W. -- Oliver Stone
State of Play -- Kevin Macdonald
The Great Buck Howard -- Sean McGinly

Ponyo -- Hayao Miyazaki I took my four-year-old nephew to this movie. It was his first experience in a movie theater. He was so curious about everything. When I asked him if he didn't mind the darkness, he said, "It's okay. I like the darkness. I like it a whole lot."

Sex and Lucia -- Julio Medem
Whatever Works -- Woody Allen
Y Tu Mama Tambien -- Alfonso Cuaron
The Happening -- M. Night Shamalon
Don't Look Back -- D.A. Pennebaker
Bruno -- Larry Charles
Rosemary's Baby -- Roman Polanski

Whip It -- Drew Barrymore A.O. Scott gave it a good review. Robert Yeomen did the cinematography. And when I went to see it with Greg Boudreau, he assured me it would be a subtle movie dealing with the discovery of a young woman's homosexuality amidst her roller derby hobby. Though it is about a young girl, and it is about roller derby, there is very little self discovery involved, homosexually or otherwise. As far as I could tell, it's mostly about Drew Barrymore giving herself the opportunity to be quirky. For example, during the ending credits as it says, "Directed by Drew Barrymore," she plays a clip of herself flubbing a line. Greg and I were both super confused leaving the movie theater as to how we could have been so misled.

Breathless -- Jean-Luc Godard
Charlotte et son Jules -- Jean-Luc Godard
Double Life of Veronique -- Krysztof Kieslowski
The Devil and Daniel Johnston -- Jeff Feuerzeig
Heart of the World -- Guy Madden
Where the Wild Things Are -- Spike Jonze
Blue Beard -- Jean Painleve
Amadeus -- Milos Forman
The Fly -- David Cronenberg
Cabinet of Dr Caligari -- Robert Wiene
Death to the Tinman -- Ray Tintori

4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days -- Cristian Mungiu This isn't a movie about abortion or government nearly as much as it is a movie about a girl who just wanted to smoke a cigarette. It's so moving and so nice despite its incredible intensity.

And the Pursuit of Happiness -- Louis Malle
Water Lilies -- Celine Sciamma
Vernon, Florida -- Errol Morris

Huge shout out to Woody Allen for being my go-to-guy for the second year in a row. I am, however, disappointed by the lack of female directors on my list this year. It's strange because I was just having a conversation the other night about how I've become more and more interested in women musicians and the new noises they're creating. It is beyond me, incidentally, how I managed to go an entire year without watching an Agnes Varda movie.

09 January, 2010

Comics! Wall Paper!

Since leaving Paris last spring I think I can count on one hand how many comics I've made. But, last night I had the Hang Zone all to myself for the first time in who knows how long, and I took full advantage of it, going straight for my old past time. The entire process is thrilling for me, from laying out the paints to mixing the colors, to figuring out the quote, to everything. What was especially nice last night was the way painting transported me back to Paris, where I was on my own, hidden in the sea of metal-blue rooftops, dreaming up schemes. I sat at my kitchen table, drinking terrible tap water (which is painfully nostalgic for me), dreaming about old friends, the boulevards, red wine, and secret movie theaters. I could have died! Traveling through time and space in my imagination. And when I got back from Paris, I looked up, and there was a Soviet submarine in front of me, and I thought, "What's happened?" What a time for it. 2010: Not bad.

Aside from revisiting friendly faces and street corners, last night I remembered my idea to start designing wall paper. The idea crept back into my mind as I was drawing this comic of the solar system. I think it'd be fantastic to be in a room where the walls are covered in solar systems like this one:

But imagine it without the text, and then imagine a bunch of other solar systems: some with two asteroid belts, some with only big planets, some with two stars, some with a black hole.

Anyway, I think it'd be a nice room. At least to talk with your friends in.

Feel free to check out the other new comics at my comic blog, Deuce-Love.

05 January, 2010

Whatever Happens, Don't Stop: 2010 Means Going; Resolutions

Learn to Make Clothes: It's hard to justify buying new clothes when there are practically millions of gorgeous fabrics just down the street from me in LA's garment district. Not to mention the unthinkably cool clothes hanging on racks at Goodwills tailored for the overweight that are just aching to be altered to fit my body. Lookswise, I may just turn a few bucks into a million.

Write More Essays: In 2009 I wrote two essays I was especially pleased with, though I only shared with a handful of people. But I miss writing about art, and I have a new fascination with co-opting cosmology to fit my world view. And I like combining them, too. Comparing Cezanne's fractured perspective with the human miracle of soulless love and affection: they both look like they're going to fall apart, but so far, no. My ideas right now, though, are leaning towards writing about the imaginary architecture we construct to better define our relationships (being in love, for example), and calling for a move away from realism-based counter cinema to one rooted in the imagination.

Write More Fiction: In paragraph form with descriptions, asides, et al.

Become Clever: It seems like the key to anything is being a deft anticipater. But, when things get crazy, and projects and jobs and friendships start moving a million miles a second and there's little time for planning and anticipation, I want my brain to be trained to already have processed multiple scenarios, situations, and possibilities without me having to ask it to. Five, maybe six, outcomes already played out in my mind by the time an idea, decision, or task reaches me.

Become Deliberate: Especially with the way I see opportunities. I want to stop myself from thinking "I feel like doing this," or "I don't fee like doing that." Instead, seeing opportunities as, "I can do that," or, "I can't." Because when it's black and white, the wiggle room for not doing things dissolves. Even for things dumb like getting out of bed when I want to keep sleeping. I can get up in the morning, so I will.

Get My Bike Fixed

Buy an Old Factory in Detroit: I hear they're cheap, and I have an idea for a movie to take place in one.

Write Everything Down: Even just a few months ago I was killing it, sometimes with two notebooks on my person to keep the ideas better organized. But I stopped thinking in terms of ideas during Red Moon and switched into production mode. Ever since it's like I am just carrying the ghost of a journal around with me. It's especially rotten because it's just the physical habit I've lost; I'm still thinking of stuff, I've just stopped reaching for that pen. It's dumb of me/ embarrassing. Also, I need to start writing more on this blog (running just for fun, so to speak). There's a lot happening these days I'd like to remember in fresh detail.

Build a Machine: I like the idea of making a series inanimate objects animate a great deal. And I think electricity is exciting by nature.

04 January, 2010

This Happened, Too

Moment for moment, pound for pound, the past month has been completely nuts. In the middle of December, par exemple, four of my friends flew down to Los Angeles from Washington to join Team Sirocco Research Lab in our submarine, where we spent a long weekend in the Atlantic Ocean above the mid-Atlantic volcanic ridge. As a group, we pushed ourselves to our creative and physical limits in a way I've never thought I could. Yet we all did. And despite still having one more long weekend of filming left (last weekend of January), something special has happened, it seems. By that, I mean I couldn't be more excited to share this movie friends and strangers alike. Regardless, I wish I had written about it publicly then, because now the weekend feels like a blur of red and blue lights, bobby pins, industrial felt, and Russian accents.

Truly, only one event stands out with complete lucidity.

It was Sunday night, December 13th, and Martin, Adi, Jaro, Kelly and me had just spent nearly every waking moment of the previous month and a half working on Red Moon: story boarding, script editing, light designing, building a 36' submarine from cardboard, designing costumes, buying fabric for the costumes, making costumes, et al. The next day, everyone from out of town was showing up for the shoot. And somehow, we were on schedule. Even better, at 9:30 in the evening, I had the entire Hang Zone to myself with no more work to do until the following day. My body was achy, my brain was weird, and I crawled into a warm bathtub. With the most recently updated script, feeling entirely satisfied, I read lines aloud in a Russian accent, held a cigarette, and soaked and soaked and soaked. There was nothing else for me to do. The water was as gray as could be.

Other than that, Red Moon's production is more or less obscured by the Fog of Production. I'm still piecing it together through the pictures Katie Reardon took on her iphone:

Making movies is fun. Everyone should try.