With predictions that Fahrenheit 9/11 could play a role in the November elections, Michael Moore is back in the news. He’s received plenty of criticism already but it’s all been from his ideological opponents, always right-wing types who disagree with his politics. This allows Moore to counter their criticisms on a political or ideological level, and as a result he’s never really addressed on some of the deeper flaws in his filmmaking.
Imagine having only 48 hours to write a script for a film, shoot all of your scenes in a variety of locations, and edit the film so that it is ready to be judged in a competition. Who would want to put themselves under such pressure?? Even faced with these crazy conditions and an insane deadline, local film makers eagerly signed up to compete in the 2003 Tour of the 48-Hour Film Project in Washington DC this month.
Remember way back when, when I was terrified of seeing the original Texas Chainsaw Massacrebecause I’d barely survived the remake? Michael Sheridan, Tail Slate’s very own creator, wasn’t going to let me off that easy. He insisted I watch both films, then compare and contrast and oh, yea, live to tell the tale.
Well, I finally got the balls (not literally) to see the original. I swear, though I can’t remember who it was, that someone told me 1974’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a classic. When I think of classics, I think of Psycho or Hitchcock’s The Birds. These are movies that, though made back in the day (in other words before I was born), still manage to scare the living bejeezus out of me.
You may not have heard of the film director Al Adamson and Sam Sherman who have been called movie sleaze merchants by some maverick filmmakers by others but whatever anyone says they laughed all the way to the bank.
This is an article which was lifted directly from a letter I wrote to a film critic here in New York who got blasted for her review of Passion of the Christ. She gave the film one star, and labeled it as “anti-semitic” and grotesquely violent. The following was my response to her review:
I would like to disagree with your assessment of The Passion as being anti-Semetic, because while I understand why viewers have reached this conclusion, it is quite mistaken. At least, from my perspective.
Everyone has a story. It’s this simple belief that rouses people from their beds with the inkling that all they need is a word processing program to compose the next Academy-lauded screenplay. Nobody wakes up and thinks: I’m going to coach the Dallas Cowboys, where do I fax my resume? I’m going to create a violin concerto, where can I pick up some sheet music?
Making a movie is easy. Pick up a camera, pick a subject, pick an angle, shoot and put it all together in one of the many inexpensive digital editing software packages available today. Then pick a format, tape, DVD, electronic file, and show off your masterpiece. It’s as easy as, well, making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Sundance used to be a cool film festival. They showed cutting edge films that were truly different from mainstream fare. The selections weren’t dominated by hype and big names, but were chosen instead based on the quality of the film. None of that is true anymore. No matter what the mainstream press says and how the festival tries to position itself, Sundance is more Hollywood than the Oscars. Quite frankly, Sundance sucks.
Just like the visuals, the story and the characters, editing is part and parcel to a good piece of work. Good editing can make your film more exciting and more dramatic.
It can also, in some cases, make up for a lack of strong visuals. It is one of the final stages of the great balancing act required to make a great film.
When making a short or feature length film with little cash, good editing is valuable. This is the stage where the film moves from being a collection of shots to a single piece.
A good editor must have a sense of pacing, to know when to cut from one shot to another. Just like an angle or a particular frame conveys an idea, so can a single cut. Part of a film’s subtext can be told through editing choices.
I have a theory.
Everyone, deep down, is seriously afraid of being the stupid kid. Because everyone, at some point in their life, has found themselves in a classroom situation where the teacher is explaining something, and everyone is nodding their heads, and, oh, man, it can’t be possible that I’m the only person who doesn’t get this, right?
The day I got my first actual check for something that came out of my own head, I had three thoughts.
Man, I need to call my parents.