The Trees of Los Angeles

Here’s the rough cut of a photo essay I’ve been working on. All shot with toy film cameras i.e. Holga cameras. It was lots of fun and that’s what counts.

Sorry I don’t really update this blog anymore. I have been super busy. My twitter is the best way to catch me these days…..

What’s so cool about ‘Greenberg’? Greenbergisms# (Spoiler Free)

“Life is often wasted on people.” Greenberg says. You’ll believe every word that comes out of Ben Stiller’s mentally unstable mouth. The trailer plays it up as too much of a comedy in my opinion. It’s more a drama film with lots of comedic moments. I’ll use my favorite term here and say it’s a ‘dramedy’ of epic and symbolic proportions by the always awesome auteur-Noah Baumbach.

So right before you sit down to see this film you are saying to yourself ‘another movie about a mid-life crisis’? Didn’t we get our fill with ‘American Beauty’ or a myriad of other flicks? No, it’s not really another generic mid-life freak-out film. Ben Stiller is incredible as Greenberg. He does not buy a Corvette or contemplate Kierkegaard-he actually does something totally new. He tries to just be. He’s freshly out of the mental hospital for ‘an undisclosed depression’ and it’s as believable and natural as can be. Ben Stiller’s last film of this nature (Dramatic and comical) was the under appreciated and brilliantly sad film “Permanent Midnight” (the story of author Jerry Stahl).

Greta Gerwig as the young confused LA hipster is beyond charming and talented on many levels. I think Gerwig is the next Kate Winslet. I have no doubts at her humble skills as an actress. Rhys Ifans fits the bill too and is totally sincere in his friendship with Greenberg as his old band mate who’s full of love and compassion.
The film itself is an ode to those LA stereotypes we all love and hate so much. Shot very naturally and captured as a style (to me anyways) of some really cool 1970s films. The editing also reminded me of the 70s too-edited by the talented Tim Streeto.

If you have lived in either NY or LA there are a few jokes that will have you bursting at your own seams (I won’t give them away I’m too nice for that). The most refreshing thing about Greenberg is there is no 3-D dream sequence nor do blue men jump at you. There are no magic moments of surreal lives realized. The special effects are humanity exposed for what it is….full of real people. They aren’t drawings of caricatures of people but real and often annoying types of folks. I for one am sick of 3-D movies and or overproduced overdone remakes. Simple films still make for the best type of films.

I will finally say that Greenberg also reminded me of the Old Italian film “Umberto D.”

It’s not the same story but it gave me a similar feeling inside. Both films have very charming dogs and troubled people in the storyline. Both I now consider to be classics.
Here’s a link to Umberto D.:
Umberto D.

If you want to see a nice old fashioned film about the simple complexities of life, then go get some Greenberg. You won’t be disappointed in him, but you might leave the theater thinking. “Why are we all here?” I think we all have a little Greenberg in all of us, myself included.

I’ll leave you all with this: What’s my own latest Greenberg moment?

I was biking through Echo Park and some asshole in a convertible Porsche tried to cut me off. I in turn cut him off (since I had the right of way) and gave him the finger. He was trapped too-so he couldn’t chase me down. He sure was mad-which made me a bit happier than normal.

We all deserve a little satisfaction and relief. Am I wrong?

The 11th Annual Scandinavian Film Fest in LA

Why do I love Scandinavian Film? Because,they are just better thinkers.

I just finished spending inordinately large amounts of time with Scandinavian people. Was I travelling? No. Was I at a Swedish massage Spa? Nope. I was at my favorite LA film festival, the 11th annual Scandinavian Film festival.

Before I get into what I saw and why it was so good, I will explain why Scan Films are better than American films or most other countries. It’s all about the people as whole and the people behind the story. The Swedes, Norwegians, and the Icelandic all have a few things in common that we lack-openness and diversity of thought. To delve a bit deeper, we as Americans think in terms of revenge, solving the crime and so forth in movies. They think in terms of: why was the crime committed and how can we help those that are left behind?

Film #1:

Still not clear? Okay my first and most clear example is the first film I saw at the festival, called,” The Accident”. The film was about a very successful car salesman who is accused of running over a small boy and then fleeing the scene. The crime was committed in car that he had just sold. In this Norwegian delight of a story, the focus is mainly on the mystery that is human nature of man as a whole, not so much the actual answer to who ran over the little boy. Our main hero/antihero was brilliantly played by Rune Temte’, and his character explores how and why a life was destroyed, even though he thinks he knows he didn’t do it. He becomes obsessed with the victim. Things fall apart as they come together.

If this film had been made by Americans, Mel Gibson would have starred in it and he would be out there killing who ever ‘murdered his little boy’. There would be no contemplation or deeper study of any of it. (Generally, not all American film makers think like this.) Scandinavian films are better, I feel, because they think beyond the normal realm of thought.

Here’s the trailer for: “The Accident” aka “Ulykken”

Film #2:

The second film I saw was Swedish and phenomenally funny. It was called “A Swedish Midsummer Sex Comedy”. The term Midsummer refers to a celebration of Summer Solstice and means a European midsummer-related holiday tradition, and celebrations which are pre-Christian in origin. Around June 24th it takes place.

It basically like a hip, European version of the 4th of July. The story is about a group of late 20s early 30s friends who all get together for the Midsummer for an island getaway.
Also included in the Scandinavian crowd is one American friend and former childhood exchange student and pal from America by the name of Sam, hilariously played by one Luke Perry. Perry was a brilliant casting choice to play such an easy going personality. I don’t want to give too much away.

Here’s the trailer/website:

(Sorry I could not find an English subtitle version of the film)

Film #3:

The third film I saw, and the most impressive of all of them, was Norway’s “Max Manus”. It is a flawless biopic about the famed anti-Nazi terrorist by the name of Max Manus. Max’s life on the big screen is one of the most impressive lives I have ever read about and or seen on film. This film was under Oscar consideration but was just eliminated from the second round of Oscar choices/semi finalists and it’s a real shame. To me it is the best foreign film for 2009/2010 year. The lead for this film, Aksel Hennie (as Max Manus) was incredible. As a matter of fact the entire cast should be mentioned as they were all so very great:

Kyrre Haugen Sydness (Jens Chr. Hauge) Mads Eldøen (Edvard Tallaksen) Christian Rubeck (Kolbein Lauring) Nicolai Cleve Broch (Gregers Gram) Agnes Kittelsen (Tikken Lindebrække) Ken Duken (Kriminalrat Siegfried Fehmer) Victoria Winge (Solveig Johnsrud) Knut Joner (Gunnar Sønsteby)

This entire trip of a film is full of intensely smart and clever dialogue, intrigue, amazing tension building scenes, and heartbreakingly spirited actions.

The trailer:

That’s all I have to say. Go see any of these films…or go rent some old Ingmar Bergman films. You will always be impressed, and possibly unlearn some clichés in the film world and in life.

The fest link:

Max Manus’s poster:

Writing vs Life …and other notes…..

I thought I would drop a quick note to let the world know what’s going on. I have been busy writing and working on some new projects and finishing up some old projects. Someone asked me the other day about a particular project: “How long have you been writing your book?” I simply answered “My whole life”.  I mean it’s a question that can’t be answered.  In the big picture-I have been writing all of my stories my entire life. If I didn’t live the life I’ve lived, or been the places I’ve been I would not be able to perform the tasks and create the stories that I have been creating as of late.

Life is a journey and art is simply the byproduct of a lack of being able to explain how you feel in simple terms.  It is the way you get to that sweet spot-the one that helps you let go and fly off to wherever you go that lets you create.  I recently went on a road trip across the Southwest and noticed that yes, there is some serious economic damage that needs to be fixed.  Where a person normally just saw 3 houses and or businesses for sale or foreclosed on I now saw 10.  I also met lots of people who didn’t exactly have it great but didn’t seem to care much.  Happiness never really has much to do with money-ask Michael Jackson or Britney Spears.

I have also noticed that lately on the radio and on TV there are these neo conservatives that keep complaining about Barack Obama and his bailout plans and how ‘he’s never going to fix this mess’.  Well, neo-con, if you voted for GW Bush twice (yes not once but twice) you really don’t have any right to complain about the state of America’s affairs as you pseudo-patriotic eggheads did it to all of us-screwing us by just voting Bush into office. So my advice for you conservatives is for you all to try and relax and survive and let Barack Obama do his job.  The level of bipartisanship in this country has risen a tiny bit thanks to Obama . I have also noticed that we have these evangelicals and ultra conservatives that seem to want to bring back segregation, war, and more…Now most of these idiots sound more like ’communists’ than our new president, about whom most of them complain and call a Communist and or worse.
I ask that you all let go of all your fear.  There’s something else besides your fear of the unknown coming right now-well actually it’s already here-change, change, and more change.  I hope you all stick around despite whatever your party may be, or whatever your sick desire may be:  hunting little innocent birds, verbally attacking our President, or whatever urge you hold dear and true that just sounds wrong or stupid. Whatever that may be, don’t be too afraid to miss the ride.
Anyways, politics aside I was trying to tell you all what I have been up to-it’s a little thing called life.  I always get my best story ideas when I take the time to jump on the road and get out of myself and my surroundings. I have been living in Los Angeles for a good ten years now.  At times the city can be more reality than one could ever want or handle, and at other times it might just seem too surreal or unreal to accept.  But I have always accepted that LA is my home-the most beautiful, hopeful, sad, fun, intelligent and pretty city in the world.

As a writer I have never made much headway just writing.  Living life fully has always been that fuel that most all writers like me need in order to grow and find deeper levels of creativity.  I often say you can either be a writer who lived life fully like Hemingway, or stay trapped inside the walls of a classroom or keep your nose buried in the latest top ten novel.  I am not saying a good education isn’t just what everyone or every good writer needs, but don’t ever forget to live too.  Life can be the best education, and education can wind up being the best life too.

What do I know? We all have our own path to follow.

Have a good trip-journey and or dream.

Always jump on to the nearest train…you never know where it might take you…..