Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

Snack-o-rama

I knew it was just a matter of time until I work for The Man, but here it is: Me and some friends made a “Doritos commercial” for the Doritos Viralocity contest. It started out as three separate videos but then was combined to create one epic story about a man tormented by his dreams (okay, it’s not as dramatic as it sounds).
Anyway, the trick in the contest is to share your video as much as possible, that is why I am using my blog, who usually concerns itself with topics as Why Are We Here and What Is The Meaning Of It All as a shameless plug-in to promote our little snack-o-rama (TM) masterpiece, which was, obviously, shot in snack-o-rama.

Enjoy!

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YouTubbing: My favorite online videos of the 21st century

At first , I wanted to post a list of my favorite films of the decade (just for the record, this is the best movie of the decade as far as I’m concerned), but there are so many lists already out there, and there are so many movies to sift through in nine years (and to think of it, 2010 is part of this decade too, so the real bookkeeping should take place next year), that I decided to focus on something a little different and much more manageable:

Online video.

Okay, so you can’t really call it “best online videos of the decade” since there wasn’t any online video before this decade, but the online-video world have been growing exponentially, both technically and creatively. Sure, 80 percent of it is crap – glorified home movies, or simply imitations of better videos, but the remaining 20 percent has given us some really entertaining stuff, right there on our computer screens (and later on our smartphones and other portable gadgets), with almost no mediators – straight from the guy at home to you, the viewer. And let me tell you, there are some seriously creative folks out there who can write, edit and perform – people we might have never had the pleasure of sampling their talent if not for the internet and especially YouTube – the Hall Of Fame for online video, at least until the next “It” video site comes along.

I chose to share with you five of the best videos I have watched these past few years. I only chose from videos who were made by “regular” people specifically for the internet. So I didn’t take into account any movie trailers, scenes and clips from movies or TV shows, or official music videos. Only user generated material. The criteria for me was simple: How re-watchable is the video? How original it is? Have i watched it more than once? more than 50 times? Is it still entertaining even by the 50th time? Two of these five videos were included just because they always make me laugh, no matter how many times I watch them. The other three are pure brilliance as far as I’m concerned.

It warms my heart to see people like me and you put time and effort, usually with no financial gain whatsoever, just to share it with other people. They did it just because they wanted too, just because it was fun.
Above all else, this decade brought the internet to almost every household and person in the world. A technological invention that has become such an essential part in our lives that we can hardly remember how it was before. And as far as creativity goes, the internet has freed us all.

So, in descending order, five of the greatest online videos:

5. Dramatic Cat

I really tried not to include any cat videos. We’re all sick of cat videos. But the hell with it, this short clip is hilarious, and there’s no ignoring the fact that cats have overrun YouTube. And why not? They’re certainly the most mischievous, mysterious, cute and amazing household pet in the world. So as an honorary representative of all 1,344,988 cat videos on the internet, I present to you my favorite one.

4. Marvel Vs. DC: The Dark Knight

There are many fanboy parodies on the net. Everything from Star Wars to Star Trek to Comics to anything in between. Some of these parodies I adore, but I didn’t include them because they seemed too particular, meaning, they might not make sense to the general public, or to put in a more direct way: I’m not everyone will get the joke.
But this video is much more accessible. Everybody knows Batman and everybody knows The Dark Knight. It’s a great satire of the phenomenon that the second Chris Nolan Batman film, a smashing artistic and financial success. It’s very well written and performed, and I laugh every time. Like the cat video, this is here also as the honorary representative of all the fan-made parodies out there, and it’s certainly one of the best.

3. Hey clip

I might seem less than objective here, since the performers are from my own country, but with 28 million views and countless tributes, including one by a Mr. Kevin Smith(!), I guess I’m not the only one. It’s a simple clip, but extraordinary at the same time, and a perfect proof of home-grown talent just finding its own audience in its own natural way.
Two teenage girls from a small town in Israel decided to shoot a clip in the bedroom of one of them for the Pixies’ song Hey, just on a lark. The result was a huge hit on YouTube. It’s Francis Ford Coppola’s vision materializing in front of our eyes: The girl with the cheap video camera is creating something that is on par or even better than many official music videos out there. Fantastic editing and shot selection, and the girls have perfect timing and chemistry together, and they have so much fun, and it shows, and it’s catching, and it’s real , and it just puts a smile on your face. It’s a winner.

2. Shining trailer

The first (if I’m not mistaken) and still the best of all the mock trailers that swept through YouTube in recent years. Notice that it’s not The Shining, but Shining. A grim horror film has been turned into a heartwarming family drama with the aid of music, voice-over, and again, brilliant editing. If I was an editing teacher that’s the first thing I would show my students. But it’s not just a great parody and a great example of the power and magic of editing, it’s also a damn good trailer in its own right. I mean, I wanna see this film! The part where Peter Gabriel’s chorus for Solsbury Hill comes in still sends giddy shivers down my spine. If the guy that made this isn’t cutting trailers in Hollywood right now, or even better, cutting movies, then something is seriously wrong.

1. Where the hell is Matt?

A 32 year-old American Video Game developer got fed up with it all and felt like he was missing out on life. He had money, so he began traveling.

One more thing you should know about him is that he had this sort of funny, bad dance move he used to do.

Okay, back to the trip: A friend filmed Matt doing his dance in Hanoi. Like many internet videos, it became viral and got the attention of a chewing-gum company that offered to sponsor Matt and send him around the world to do his little dance in different places. And that’s what he did.

Up to now it sounds pretty silly, I admit.

But then, in 2008, he was back on the road again.

And this time, he didn’t dance alone.

The result is one of the most uplifting, exhilarating, and heart-warming little montages I have ever seen. It does nothing short of giving me a since of renewed faith in mankind as a species. It’s stunning and beautiful in more ways than I can describe. I love it.

So here’s to music and joy and silly dancing and especially love, because that is the most powerful message of this video.

Oh, and what a gorgeous world we have.

So that’s it. Here’s hoping for more oodles of grassroots creativity on the World Wide Web as it enters its second decade and expands and grows to make us all one nation under the stars. It’s been a hell of a ride.

Bring back the DVD Movie Guide

The DVD Movie Guide is/was a fat book full of short film reviews, with ratings which range from Turkey (really really bad) to five stars. The formal purpose of the book was to help in the decision which movies to rent or buy, but it also served as an indispensable pool of film knowledge, especially thanks to its director/cast indexes, where you could look up who did what and with whom. This was especially helpful in the pre-Internet age, and here lies the rub.

After 22 years the DMG’s publisher, Random House, decided to discontinue the book, citing the internet as the main reason for that. The logic behind it was that since we can find all film information on the net, nobody needs this book anymore. Right?

Wrong.

The DMG was a special book. I’ve been buying and reading it since 1993, when it was still called Video Movie guide. What made the DMG great wasn’t the indexes – those did lose their relevance in the age of IMDB, although it’s still fun to check them out just sitting on a couch with the book at hand, and I still do it from time to time with my old copies – No, the reason was pretty simple: The reviews.

The DVD Movie Guide was always a no-nonsense, down to earth, film review book, with honest, insightful and sometimes damn funny – reviews. While other film reference tomes of its kind, most famous being the Leonard Maltin guide, mainly review films from a critical, even snobbish point of view, what made the DMG special was it being a movie review book by moviegoers for moviegoers. By saying that I don’t mean that the reviews were written lazily or information was partial and wrong, I’m saying the entire approach in reviewing films was that all films no matter their genre, no matter who made them, no matter their subject matter, all deserved a fair chance. What made this book close to my heart was the almost perfect synch it had with my taste. I rarely go wrong by watching a film recommended by this book. that’s not to say that it was always prefect (you can’t honestly except a 100 percent anywhere in life). Few films which received five starts weren’t that perfect in my eyes, and  some films which got two starts deserved better, I thought (that’s where the “guilty pleasure” discussion comes in. On the other hand, a turkey is almost always a turkey). But for the most part I almost always agreed with their reviews.

There are so many movies out there, so when you find a reliable film guide you should hold on to it and treasure it. It becomes your best friend. It helps you separate the good from the bad and it helps you save time. And one more thing, perhaps the most important: What the DMG or any self-respecting film guide does best is not to tell you Casablanca is good and Ishtar is bad. You knew that already. What it needs to do is help you DISCOVER those films you never heard of or thought they were lousy just because of  prejudice or because you didn’t like the poster or the trailer. Not too long ago I persuaded friends to watch the wonderful Hot Fuzz. They weren’t too enthusiastic about it at the beginning. They never heard of the film before and the DVD art looked tacky. They thought it’s just a moronic comedy. Instead they discovered a clever, hilarious spoof of American action films and British rural mysteries. And that’s what DMG has done for me time and time again. Helped me discover those gems that I never heard of or didn’t much care for.

The DMG was edited and partially written by Mick Martin and Marsha Porter. They were assisted by a hardy group of film reviewers. (just like the Maltin guide. Although his face is on the cover, he cannot review everything by himself ). So it’s amazing that DMG managed to stay so consistent over the years. That’s what I call great editing, and the kudos here go to Mick and Marsha.

I had a short e-mail correspondence with Mick Martin where he explained to me what happened. DMG was discontinued on September 2006, right around the time when the last edition was published. He and Marsha tried their best to find another publisher but to no avail. DMG has its fans. People want it back. The decision to cancel it, while Maltin’s and other yearly review books keep being published is a real shame.

They’ve cancelled the best film reference book out there.

I don’t know if there was decline in sales. I don’t know if it’s for other reasons. I just know that the reason Random House gave Mick Martin was “because you can get it for free on the Internet”. I’m a heavy Internet user. I spend a lot of hours on-line, whether it’s at work or at home, and unless you’re a webmaster and that’s your job, I don’t think anyone ruins his posture in front of a computer more than I do. And if I’m ready to keep buying the DMG than I can’t imagine anyone else not doing the same thing.

“You can’t stop progress”, someone might say. “Books are a way of the past”, someone else might add. Well, screw that. (Yeah, I’m talking to you, Kindle).

DMG writers used to do something unique (at least as far as I know): Although it was extremely rare, from time to time they used to change a movie’s rating, their reasons being because times change, points of view change, or maybe a “movie just caught us on a bad day”. It’s a remarkably humble statement for a “critical” reference book.

Too bad Random House won’t do the same for them.

Any other publisher out there? Come on, people.

We’ll give you five stars,

A goes into B

The following article contains explicit language and mature subject matter.

Porn isn’t about sex. It’s certainly not about people. Porn is about organs.

Great, you might say. The celebration of the human reproductive organs up-close-and-personal.

Yeah, if only it had been so poetic.

I guess someone, somewhere, thinks that watching extreme close-ups of male-female sex organs having it on is pure bliss. I guess someone thinks that seeing a guy comes all over a woman’s face is really sexy. You see those porn girls staring at a cock as if it’s the best thing they’ve ever seen in their life. They’ve been to the Pyramids, they’ve been to Mt. Rushmore, they hiked through the Amazon, but they’ve never seen anything as amazing as that ugly cock standing at attention. I’ve never seen a guy staring at a woman’s vagina with such adoring fascination.

No, guys in porn are nothing but human fucking machines. Most of the time you don’t even see their faces, because their faces are not important. It’s the dehumanizing aspect of hard-core porn that makes it so unsettling. After you watch that stuff for more then two minutes you feel like taking a bath. Not because you soiled your pants, but because you feel dirty. That’s why they call movies like Hostel “torture porn”. It has the same unpleasant dehumanizing effect, but it uses violence instead of sex.

This kind of porn is not sexy, it’s mechanic and soulless, reducing the act of sex to an industrial equation: Here’s a hole. This contraption needs to enter that hole. It’s like a game of building blocks. And yet, there is immense built-in fascination with porn. It seems forbidden, that’s what it is. Every time you watch porn you feel like you really shouldn’t be doing that. That every minute the Behave-Yourself Police is going to storm in and arrest you. In a repressed world such as the one we inhabit, porn can be very liberating. It frees your dark, naughty side. It lets you play forbidden games. That is why it’s so popular. It has a powerful psychological attraction. Nobody really needs porn to jack off. Hard-core Porn is first and foremost a psychological outlet for repressed urges, and only then does it serves as a titillating vehicle.

But again, everything has a limit. Woody Allen once said that when he watches a porn film, for the first half all he wants to do is have sex while for the second half the last thing he wants to do is have sex. What that means is that at the bottom line, porn is boring, especially in long increments. I don’t know who can sit and watch a 90 minute long porn movie. Porn really gets repetitive after a while. Sure, there are high class productions shot on tropical islands just for the eye candy, but basically it’s all the same. Holes and cocks.

Porn is empowering women and demeaning them at the same time. And anyway, men are really redundant. Who needs to see them, lumbering into the room with their phallic appendages hanging like some freakish mutant sausage and then start humping the woman with the gentleness of a bull. And indeed, this stuff reminds me a lot of nature films, where the male lion climbs on the lioness and starts humping her.

Maybe porn is just a nature show, only with humans. We are like the animals, humping each other in a matter of fact way with no emotion whatsoever because that’s what nature, or a fat check, drives us to do. But we are people, and yes, not all sex derives out of love or emotional ties. Sometimes it’s pure impulse, purely physical, but we, as humans, are bound to feel empty the morning after because, admit it or not, we all eventually seek the warmth and pleasure of love, compassion and mutual understanding. In porn there’s no love. Porn has only holes, and organs, and bodily fluids, as if people are pieces of meat. Why do people get off on seeing that? When Rita Hayworth pulled out her glove in Gilda it was much sexier than the entire running time of College Bimbos 17.

In Horror films, when you don’t see the monster and have to imagine it, it’s making it more scary. The same principal works, or should work, in porn. Because the more you see, the more you get bored and unimpressed. It’s the unseen that is really sexy. If in horror you have a glimpse of a shadow, in Erotica you have the glimpse of a leg, a fleeting lock of hair, a bare shoulder. That’s why strippers are such a hoot. It’s the taking-of-the-clothes part that drives men crazy. But the minute she’s naked? You stare at her for a second and then… Yawn. Let’s go home. Nothing to see here, folks.

Hard-core porn is adult entertainment for those who don’t want to discover anything by themselves, for the short-attention-span ones, for those who’s seen it all and nothing but women having it with zebras will give them satisfaction. All they want are the organs. Bring us the organs. We want to watch organ A enters organ B. Yes, we like it. It’s really sexy.

Now all we need is Sir David Attenborough narrating.

Ebb and Tide

When I first started this Weblog, I did it because I felt there were things I wanted to say: About life, about the world, and maybe a little about myself. I saw all those other Weblogs that began to spring like mushrooms and was a little envious. Me, who always wrote in one form or another, don’t have a blog, while 10 year old infants share their thoughts with the world. So, despite my dilslike of “joining herds”, I established my own little public notebook.

Lately my posting rate has dropped down considerably. This is the ebb and tide of writing. I experience it with my screenplays all the time. Enthusiasm, followed by a lack of enthusiasm. An idea comes up, then tossed aside. A piece starts to get written, only to be neglected.

I am not  a hard-working writer. In other words, I’m lazy. In order to write, I need a strong motive. Will power usually isn’t enough. It is no coincedence that most of my scripts are short ones. It is no coincedence that I’ve never written a book. I lack the follow-through. I find it very difficult to handle stories on a large canvas, because they require patient, methodical planning, and quite frankly, I’m not too good at that. Especially the “patient” part.

One of the reasons I didn’t write a lot here recentley is because I tried to devote what little writing energy I had to writing actual stories, screenplays, and it worked to some degree.

One of these screenplays, a little story called “Hype”, I’m actually trying to produce as a short film. I’ve already been all over town to find locations, and there is still a lot of work to be done. Getting people, getting actors, getting equipment. The way to do it, at least for me, is try to do it step by step, because I just can’t think about everything at once, because then I’ll just go hide somewhere and whimper.

So that’s it basically, that’s how it goes, take it as you may. This Weblog can again become my favorite writing pad – where I post something new three times a week, but it can also stay dormant for long periods of time. It is what it is and it mirrors my writing life and my moods.

I mean, I know I’m not a 10 year old, but hey, sometimes I sure feel like one. 

The unbearable lightness of clicking

It’s a seasonal thing. Before, there was myspace.com, now there’s facebook.com, and tomorrow there will be another one, a different one.

Websites that are supposed to connect people. You register, write about yourself, post a picture or two, and then you can invite “friends” or get in touch with “friends”. or do whatever with your “friends”. That’s right, the word “friend” is meaningless here.

Hordes of people register in those sites, each of them has friends. Do these friends actually meet and do stuff together? Usually not. They are just friends there in the virtual world. What is the point of that? What need do I have for some grinning fool to post his picture in my page and call himself a friend? Becuase we both like the Beatless?

You can be on Myspace.com and have a long list of friends. Does it matter? No, it’s meaningless. You still sit at home alone on the weekend. There’s nothing more pathetic than sit alone in your house in front of the computer screen and look at all your “friends”.

Meeting on the Net and in the real world are different as night and day. Look at e-mail, for example. It’s a great tool for connecting people, but also for alienating them. I stopped counting the number of times I sent an e-mail and didn’t recieve a reply. And I’m not talking about e-mails sent to huge corporations which are swamped and can’t possibly answer everyone, but for e-mails sent to individual, private people.

The truth of the matter is that people don’t regard e-mail as an actual mail. It’s much easier to dismiss a pile of words on your computer screen then a physical paper on your desk, which is ironic, since it should be the other way around. After all, with a real letter, you have to put it in an envelope, post stamp it, and go to the mail box. Using your legs. The thing is that an e-mail is a far more widespread form of communication than snail mail ever was. When we used to have pen-pals we waited each day for a letter to arrive, tracking the mail man as he crossed the street to our house. And when we got a letter – oh, what a joy, what a special occasion. It was much harder turning your back to an actual letter. I mean, the person that sent it to you actually sat down, wrote it with a pen or pencil and sent it to you. Actually went ahead and dropped it in the box. That’s got to count for something, doesn’t it?

The internet is simulteaously a great tool for connecting people and alieniting them. E-mails are a woefully impersonal way of communication, and all your friends in “social networks” sites don’t mean shit at the end of the day.

One more peculiar thing with e-mails is the “how to end a correspondence” phenomenon. Many times, when you e-mail back and forth with someone, a conversation forms. And a lot of times it goes on much further than it should have, just because no one really knows how to end it. “Should I be the last to answer? Should I say “Ok, so I’ll talk to you tomorrow?” Usually, it just ends when one side stops writing arbitrarily, making both sides happy in the process. Gee, I tell you. This e-mail thing. Either you write too little or too much. And if you think you can actually know someone through e-mails. think again. I happen to know a person which always ends her e-mails with a smiley, but when you approach her in real life she never, ever smiles!

Don’t get me wrong, socially speaking, the World Wide Web had revolutionised the world. I myself have met some cool people through it which I wouldn’t have met otherwise. People that helped me a great deal, or just people I came to know and be friends with. None of them were friends of mine on Myspace, though. I met them all through message boards and various web sites.

Furthermore, as a screenwriter, I don’t believe in collaborating on a script through the Net – collaborating with a total stranger, that is. This kind of creative link is usually bound to collapse after a short while. You can’t really connect in earnest with some faceless guy sitting behind his desk somewhere. If you want to collaborate, you should meet. Physically. At least once.

People will always be people. No matter what technological advancements we achieve, we crave for the same things people have always craved for. The methods maybe new, but the human psyche will always stay the same.

The Web has brought comfort to many lonley hearts (I haven’t even mentioned dating sites, which I despise, by the way), but in the end it is a hollow, temporary victory. You need to be able to turn the virtual socializing to a real-world socializing in order for it to mean something.

So go out, stand in the sun, feel the wind in your hair, and watch people. Listen to them. Observe them. People-observing is one of the most fascinating things in the world, (do you hear that, all you lost-in-my-ipod folks?)

And who knows, you might find some new friends in the process.