This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mushroom Cloud: California Wildfires

August wildfires around La Canada Flintridge, CA produce crazy A-bomb mushroom cloud in my neighborhood. Couldn't resist braving the apocalyptic air quality for some pics...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Movie Parallels and Bribes Worth Giving...

I recently directed an episode of It's Always Smoggy In L.A. [Ep."The Straight Line"-- currently in post-production.] Directing is one of those strange things in life that you absolutely, positively don't know about until you're knee deep in the muck of it--and even then, you don't know much. You can read and study all you want, watch the classics, watch the masters...but until it's you out there calling the shots--

It can be mucky and icky and there were times when I felt like I was sinking in quicksand, but it was an adventure and an oddball wad of excitement, elation, creatively-induced hyperactivity, nerve-wracking anxiety, uncertainty, sleeplessness, and utter and complete exhaustion-- at least in my experience. However, the most difficult of adventures yield the biggest rewards and the most overall satisfaction. So, directing for me was a great accomplishment.

The funny thing is that no matter how rewarding and satisfying this accomplishment has been for me personally, the five-year-old kid in me needed a bribe. That kid needed something to get through all the pre-production planning and work of being a director.

I promised that five-year-old kid in me that if she stuck with me through casting, insomnia, the rehearsal, insomnia, the shot list, insomnia, and the shoot date-- we could both collapse and giggle and then [only then] we could get ice cream and go see Julie & Julia. Yes, I'm a big dork in that a chick flick about cooking (French cooking, no less) was the dangling reward at the end of my directing path.

So, two days ago-- I took myself out to Humphrey Yogart, a definite fave, got some chocolate and vanilla swirled and blended with graham cracker and indulged in the creamy goodness of both the icy treat and Julie & Julia.

When Julie Powell poured cascading chocolate into a pie shell in the first few moments of the film, my tummy didn't feel neglected-- I had my own chocolate/vanilla concoction. Meryl Streep's Julia Child made me happy because she was so amazingly happy when she was cooking and eating and dreaming about food and cooking and eating all over again. Streep captured the frothiness of an attitude toward life that I wish to embrace in all I do. Even the cheery music put me in a good mood.

On the other side of things, Julie Powell (Amy Adams) proved that sometimes lofty goals are worth attempting. The path to great things is always steep and little mistakes are bound to happen along the way, but the ending is sure to be sweet and tangy and you will have learned a lot.

It was a very fitting movie for me to christen my first directing experience. Along my path, I felt like Julie Powell much of the time, but I bit my lip and kept going and now, as I'm seeing some of the footage I captured I feel more like Julia Child because now I'm seeing the work was worthwhile and the story I wrote is beginning to take shape and be fun. And now I can't wait because I've learned so much and I know that next time, I'll be better. And I may even be able to sleep.

P.S. Like most people who've indulged in Julie & Julia, I've also gone back to cooking [from an actual recipe] a bit more. Yesterday, I made BBQ shrimp and green pepper kabobs with brown rice and today I made stuffed mushrooms and melon sorbet. I'd like to make it more of a habit ~

Copyright KLiedle 2009
Photo/illustration credit: Lovely Art/flickr, Sony Pictures Entertainment (Julie & Julia)
It's Always Smoggy In L.A.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

It's Always Smoggy In L.A. - "Almost Perfect"

The latest in the Smoggy series, "Almost Perfect."
Written and directed by Scott Vogel, Editing by Kendra Liedle
Starring Daniele Favilli, Justin Vestal, Leesel Boulware

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Trashing The Movie Theater

"The sunflower guy's been back again...," I comment as I sweep up shell casings from the floor. He comes like a shadow at night-- this time the evidence is more far flung than usual-- even to the entrance to the womens' restroom. Is 'sunflower guy' [gasp] a woman? I wonder.

This isn't a stadium. We can't just take a giant hose and spray down the aisles-- This is a movie theatre. We have 16 screens and each screen hosts a film an average of five times a day-- that's 80 shows with varying turnaround times that never seem to be long enough. And unlike what you might think, we generally don't have an army of people to clean-- just a handful of us who have to work fast.

I often wonder about human decency. When you put your ABC gum in the cup-holder, do you ever stop to think that another human being will have to clean that up? Are you doing everyone a favor by taking fourteen napkins and kicking your popcorn tub underneath your seat as far as you possibly can? I still haven't forgotten [or forgiven] the guy in the last row of the lengthy "Curious Case Of Benjamin Button" who just couldn't wait and chose to whip it out, pee in a cup, and leave that gift for someone else to find--that someone was me. Humans are nasty, dirty, tasteless creatures.

What happened to etiquette? What happened to class? Does it just not exist anymore outside the fictional world of shows like Mad Men? When did it become okay to trash movie theaters? As I child, the cardinal rules drilled into me were 1) Clean up after yourself and 2) Learn to share. Surely, other people remember those lessons. American 'throw away' culture seems to endorse that it's okay to trash public places-- ah, we're Americans-- so leisurely and privileged. We're exempt from cleaning up after ourselves. That's why they hire help to do it for us.

It wasn't always this way. In the time of movie palaces, vendors hawked their wares outside, but theater owners didn't allow food in. Their palaces were treated as such-- kept as pristine and upscale as possible. However, popcorn kernels and wayward candy-wrappers crept in from the outside world, despite attempts to keep the mess out. The procession continued...and soon, theater-owners, searching for new sources of revenue, began selling snacks themselves. Movie house were built more modestly to accommodate the change and the film exhibition industry began to build an empire that today has concessions linked hand-in-hand with the movie-going experience. Today, concession sales continue to be a lucrative money-maker for theaters [since the highest percentages of ticket sales is money in the studios' pockets.] No fear-- the overpriced movie snack bar is hear to stay.

I know America is not the place to eat consciously or in moderation. Maybe you're thinking that if you leave that large popcorn tub congealed in butter and the caramel treasures, you can convince yourself it never happened. The evidence is there in the dark. You can't see it and no one knows it was you. Maybe you can convince yourself that you didn't eat the whole thing and then another thing. You didn't get butter and the large soda. You were in control.

In a good horror flick, you might get startled... in a good comedy, you might laugh yourself silly as popcorn explodes in your lap. What I'm asking is that you pay a little more attention to not only what you're consuming but also what you're leaving behind-- not just in your local movie theater, but everywhere you grace the planet with your presence. Clean up after yourself. We've all gotta share this country...this planet. And in this economy, it's no stretch of the imagination that you could very well be the one cleaning up after the next show. Think about it.

Movie Genres (from worst to best in cleanliness)
ACTION {especially mindless/plotless action}
COMEDIES {gross-out and stoner comedies are the worst}
HORROR FILMS {the scarier, the better...really scared people don't eat popcorn.}
INDEPENDENT/ART HOUSE FILMS {generally attract film fanatics that respect the art form and the venue.}
DRAMA {older, more mature/sophisticated audiences. Many times, plots don't generate a craving for munchies.}

Above all, BAD FILMS = increased mess. Audiences get bored. They get restless-- especially if it's a incredibly mediocre action film with a long running time. When someone in row G has ripped their ticket into 50 little tiny pieces, it's generally not a good sign for a film.

P.S. The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Samuel Goldwyn Theater does not sell snacks or allow any outside food into the theater. Good for them!

Copyright 2009 by KLiedle

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Have Blockbusters Fallen Flat?

This summer was supposed to be BIG: Star Trek, Transformers, X-men Origins: Wolverine, Angels and Demons, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Movie houses were orgasmic with delight at the summer line-up. The studios had convinced them that this summer was going to explode like a bushel of popcorn kernels and rake in money for both the studios and exhibitors. But now that summer is melting into fall, it's evident that these summer blockbusters have mostly fallen flat-- like a cake without leavening.

For all of these movies, the prospects were good. Young men, teenagers were the prime targets-- hence all the action adventure and guy-oriented flicks. A few family films were thrown into the mix with a chick flick or two-- to keep the girls entertained, as studio executives must've surmised.

There was a certain level of hype for Star Trek (one of the best reviewed of the bunch) and X-men was HUGE for all of 3 days-- until word got out that it wasn't all that good. Even with several different endings attached to prints being viewed across the nation, X-men died a quick death as if by electric chair-- momentarily electrifying then completely unresponsive. A few weeks later, it had shriveled away completely. Transformers leapt into the air and landed back on the ground as scrap metal-- many audiences decided they didn't want to pay cash for that clunker.

These movies made money, but certainly not as much as the advanced hype and forecasting predicted. Even in overseas markets, these films weren't blasting through as much as studios had intended-- especially considering the films' collective costs. The blockbusters were longer-- and oddly less engaging. Transformers hit theatres with a runtime of 147 minutes. It was if Michael Bay was saying: Take that Christopher Nolan, my action pic can be just as long as your Dark Knight. Even Harry Potter was lengthy: 153 minutes (2 hours 33 minutes), topping even that of Transformers.

Is this what audiences want? Increasingly, I don't think so. I know it's not what I want. For one, I can't sit there that long. After the 2 hour mark, I start squirming-- my attention wanders and I'm ready to move on, get up, stretch. I'm also tired of action adventures catering to men and the young when alternatives for other audiences-- namely women and the more sophisticated moviegoers amount to no more than stereotypical chick flicks and independent art films that never get enough distribution to even reach their intended audiences (especially in smaller markets.)

From what I've observed at the film exhibition level, audiences are bored... and far more critical of film fare than they've been in the past. CGI and action-adventure acrobotics are no longer really all that impressive. People seem to be tired with more and bigger and complicated or non-existent plots. They're leaning toward simpler fare with story and character and situations that we could imagine happening to us. Audiences are spending more time thinking about life, the economy, the environment. No marketing, franchising, merchandising or pyrotechnics can boost a movie's box office mojo if audiences just don't give a shit anymore.

Attention Studios: Perhaps the era of blockbusters have gone the way of supersizing.

Now, G.I. Joe: Rise Of The Cobra is set to open 8/7. Today, the Los Angeles Times reported that Paramount has decided not to screen the film for critics. Only time will tell-- but this is usually a bad sign especially for an expensive film that's supposed to launch a new franchise. If G.I. Joe, too, falls flat perhaps there is hope that the cake will rise with Julie & Julia. For if there's anyone who knows about leavening and the ingredients for success, it would be Julia Child. And with that, there's potential for a sleeper hit as we approach the downslope of the 2009 film slate.

Copyright 2009 by KLiedle