Vague Ramblings – John Carpenter Live

A new episode of my vlog Vague Ramblings is up on YouTube all about seeing John Carpenter live. Stay tuned for many more new ones including some on the new film, projects, my gear, and lots more rambling.

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John Carpenter Live – A Dream Come True

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Performing the theme to Big Trouble In Little China.

Last night I went to see John Carpenter perform live. He is currently touring performing themes from several of his films plus tracks from his two non-soundtrack albums Lost Themes and Lost Themes II. To say the night was amazing is an understatement. It was one of my favorite evenings ever.

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John Carpenter is an idol of mine. When I was a kid I saw The Fog and was both scared and fascinated by it. I watched it over and over. As I’ve written before I was a huge film fan from a very young age and took great interest in directors which led to me being one. So when I saw a film that struck me, even when I was in single digit age numbers, I wanted to know what else they had done. This led to me seeing Escape From New York, which is one of my top favorite films, and Christine, and The Thing, and Big Trouble In Little China, and eventually Halloween. That’s right. The film John Carpenter is best known for I actually saw later. This did not minimize my love or admiration for it though. If anything I appreciated it even more. I love all of his films. Even some of the ones that didn’t click right away with me I find as I revisit them I realize how much I missed before and I have a new appreciation for them.

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Indeed I became a huge fan of his from his own unique style not just visually but the stories he chose to tell. One added element was the music in his films which was always incredible. If I wasn’t already a big fan of his as a director he also scored his films as well.

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John Carpenter’s music has been just as much of an influence on me as his films are. I actively sought out the soundtracks, back then on cassette then LP and then CD, and I would listen to them over and over. I still remember being in a music store in Florida visiting my grandmother in 1987 and finding the cassette of Halloween. You would have thought I found the Holy Grail by how excited I was. Well, in some ways I did. I bought it and listened to it over and over. Over the years the soundtrack list grew from one film to the other. I believe I have all of the soundtracks he ever did. Or maybe I’m missing one. And if I am then I need to change that.

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Performing the theme to Escape From New York.

Listening to his music did two things. It reminded me of his amazing films first but then my imagination would open up and I would start to develop my own story idea from the mood set by his music. Needless to say every screenplay I have ever written has included listening to his music.

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Performing the theme to They Live.

When he announced he was touring I made sure I went. I had missed two chances before to meet him which I regretted so I got the the VIP Meet and Greet ticket. I had to meet him. And while they are a bit rushed since they take place before the concert I was at least able to thank him for a lifetime of inspiration and joy.

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Performing the theme to Halloween.

The feelings rang all over the place as each piece was played. Hearing these pieces of music that have played through my ears during so many times of inspiration and creativity is unlike any other feeling. You almost don’t know whether you want to cry or jump for joy. Or both.

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I have been lucky enough to meet some of the people I admire greatly. Ones that inspire me to grow creatively. He was one of the few that I kept missing. Luckily that is no longer the case. Not only did I get the chance to meet him but also see him happy as can be playing music he wrote for the movies he made.

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Thank you Mr. Carpenter. Not just for last night but for giving inspiration to a young boy who just wanted to make movies.

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Me with the great John Carpenter.

*I uploaded some of my photos I took at the concert which you can see on my Flickr page HERE. One I desperately need to update with other photos.

*Below are just a few short clips from the show. There will eventually be a DVD/Blu-ray that they are making. I was actually interviewed for it(!). I assume it will be out some time next year.

I did a Vague Ramblings episode on it in case you needed more of me gushing.

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Who’s The G-Master Now

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As many people know I have been desiring (drooling?) 0ver the new Sony G-Master line of lenses since they were announced. As someone who uses both the Sony FS7 and Sony A7RII cameras using those lenses would be ideal. I’m a big believer that using native lenses is, in most cases, better though using other lenses with adapters is perfectly fine as I do that as well. But I personally prefer using lenses made for the cameras I use.

When Sony went to full frame mirrorless their lens options were lacking in options. It took time to build a library of lenses as it would for any new mount. While there were some great lenses early on there were those of us that really wanted more professional lenses with low F-stops and great glass. Guess what? They listened. They started releasing their G series and now with their G-Master lenses they are aiming for professionals. These lenses are heavier than the usual mirrorless lenses because low light optics requirements means heavier glass. I don’t mind that as I can deal with weight in favor of amazing optics and that’s what these lenses have. Two of the three new G-Master lenses were the ones I was lusting after. The 24-70mm zoom lens with a constant F/2.8 aperture and the 85mm F/1.4 lens. A zoom lens with a constant aperture is something that greatly helps in my video work. I have never had an 85mm lens and as much as I love to take portraits I figured it was time I change that.

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Sony 85mm G-Master F/1.4 lens.

Needless to say camera gear ain’t cheap. If you’ll pardon the hyperbole. Professional gear of any kind is even doubly expensive. That being said getting good gear is an investment and it’s one you have to decide is worth it or not. Your work isn’t better because of your gear. It does help though. There is a difference between a $400 lens and a $2,000 lens. It becomes obvious when you start shooting. However, I never buy expensive gear out of the gate. You do have to build. Learn to drive in a Yugo (remember those?) before you get a BMW. That’s not to say the temptation to get the top of the line this or that isn’t there. It is. It is always there. Just make sure you can really appreciate it when you do.

Going off on a tangent.

I am getting the chance for a very fun photo shoot so I am using that as my excuse (like I need one) to finally get the 85mm G-Master. I’m sure with a quick search you can see it’s super expensive. I decided I could only get it through Best Buy since I can at least finance it for a year. So I have 12 months before I curl up in a corner crying into my empty wallet. I wanted these pictures to be special and I knew the 85mm would really help with some of the pictures I want to do. So the choice was made and I ordered it. Now at the time I could only have it sent to the store not to my house. Why? I have no idea. It was weird but it’s not a big deal. It’s just me walking into Best Buy can be dangerous as I tend to always wander into the movie section and before you know it, well, two weeks ago I went in to get one movie and walked out with five and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon set that is in the van packaging. At that point my $5 rewards coupon doesn’t add up to much. I ordered the lens and had it shipped to the store.

When I got the message it was ready I went and picked it up. It was such a site to see. Just cute as anything. A bright sunshine on a cloudy day. Enough about the girl at the counter. When she brought the lens out I have to admit I was as excited as a kid. She asked me about what I do as I don’t think they see many lenses of that type since the stores don’t carry them. As I stood there in my Dawn Of The Dead t-shirt (always the professional) I told her what I did as my card rang up the charge. The very expensive charge.

The average person would have left but not me. I took my lens and wandered around. I went through the movie section and debated a few titles. Especially some steelbooks. Even though I already had the movies the steelbooks looked cool. Luckily the amount of the lens kept me from doing anything rash. Well, almost.

As I walked through the TV section, because that’s normal when you’re not looking for a TV, the girl from the front counter passed by in her regular clothes as I guess she was done for the day and said she hoped I had a great day. I should have gotten her number. Damn.

Anyway. Where was I? Oh yeah! The TV section.

I walked by the glowing glow of the amazing 4K televisions when I saw they moved the camera section. So I wandered over briefly even though rarely is there anything they keep in store that I usually need. A worker went over to the locked cabinet with a customer as I was right there and there I saw an orange and black box. Wait. Sony uses orange and black boxes for their lenses. Best Buy doesn’t carry those. Wait. That is a Sony box! Wait! It’s the 24-70mm G-Master F/2.8 zoom lens?!?!?!?! I asked the guy before he closed it if I could see that real quick. He pulled it out but said he can’t leave it with me. Whatever. He pulled it out and it was in amazing condition despite being an “open item”. He put it back and showed the other customer something else. I stared at the box through the locked glass and that’s when I saw that because it was an open box item it was also over $400 off(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!).

Now, on occasion Sony lenses will have a rebate offer. I’ve gotten a couple lenses that way but at the most they are $100 off and new lenses like these won’t be on any sale for a long while. Having just spent the huge amount on the 85mm there is no way I could spend almost the same amount for the zoom lens. I can’t. Then my mind starts the justifying.

I will never find this lens at over $400 off.

The lens is right in front of me. I can see it’s in perfect condition.

The video and photos I can take with this will be incredible. Having this lens on the film and for video work and for photography will be a huge plus.

I can also get financing so I have a year before I cry in the corner into my empty wallet.

With this lens I complete my want list so I don’t need anymore lenses. I’m set.

Even though I’m a professional this makes me more professional because … just because!

Those steelbooks look cool. No wait. Lens!

I always live by the Al Bundy “Shoe Line” mantra,”Al Bundy isn’t going into the hole for $50,000. He’s going into the hole for $100,000!”

And then finally – what if someone else buys this? I will regret this forever. FOREVER!

With that my mind was made. Therefore I present you with my 24-70mm G-Master F/2.8 lens.

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Sony 24-70mm G-Master F/2.8 lens.

Am I excited? Hell yeah! Am I scared because I just spent a crap load of money? Hell yeah! Sometimes you just have to take chances and sometimes you have to risk to do it. I admit I am hoping that things work out otherwise a year from now (with other things as well) I could be in a worse place. Or, I could be in a ten times better place. I don’t know. I have a lot at stake this year and I just upped the stakes even more. Let’s face it, if you don’t try it you’ll never know. I never want to live in regret. I’ve regretted enough in my life so far. No more.

With the film on the horizon (weeks away?!) and now a photo shoot that is opening my eyes to other things I am in an uncertain but exciting place. This major purchase is a step into that new phase. Here’s to the future! And to eating ramen for awhile.

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My full set of amazing lenses. Let’s go make some more magic.

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Ella Gets An Award

 

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Great news! Ella Gets A Promotion? has won an award at the Accolade Global Film Competition. Such an amazing thing since they receive thousands of films from all over the world. It’s a great start to our film festival submissions. I’ll keep everyone posted as more news comes. In the meantime we are all very excited for this.

Ella Gets A Promotion? Trailer from Richard Diaz on Vimeo.

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To Infinity And Beyond

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A frame grab from one of the camera tests for the film shot in 4K with the Sony FS7.

I haven’t posted much lately but not from a lack of things happening but more from there being a lot of things happening. The first half of the year was definitely an all over the place couple of months.

The main thing is the new feature film is in Pre-Production. Locations have been (and are still) being scouted. I’ve been doing camera tests to test out different looks. I’ve been using the Sony FS7, which will be the main camera, and the Sony A7RII recording to the Atomos Assassin in Pro Res, which will be a B camera. Everything is being shot in 4K and while the file sizes are huge (going to need a lot of hard drives) it is amazing. I have been waiting years for the time when I could shoot 4K on my own without having to rent very expensive cameras.

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There are a few more tests to run but it has all been very exciting and promising at how well I can finally do what I want without compromise as it has felt in the past with other cameras.

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We are putting together key crew and will start casting in a bit. There will be many updates coming on the film as it all comes together. Let the madness begin.

There are a few other projects in the works which I’ll be talking about soon. And for those wondering, No Witnesses, my new short film, is being, and has been, submitted to several film festivals. They’re all not until later in the year so I won’t hear anything for a couple more months.

On the collecting front I am taking a back seat this year to watch expenses but when something special comes along you can’t pass it up. I’ll post about some of them later either in blog form or video form but I will post about some of the very cool additions to my Escape From New York collection. One of my top favorite films I just love collecting for it. I finally got the original teaser poster.

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An original teaser poster for Escape From New York.

I also finally got the complete set of the original lobby cards. I got an amazing deal on seven of them. Part of the deal was because it wasn’t the complete set but the price was a fraction of what a complete set goes for. That was exciting. The downside is that I had to track down the one card I didn’t have. I finally found one and naturally it was almost twice as much as what I paid for the other seven. I managed to get a deal but even then it was still more than the other seven. However, all total I still paid about a quarter of what a full set goes for so I still made out.

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The original complete set of 11×14 lobby card set for Escape From New York.

As if that wasn’t enough I also got an incredible deal on the original French poster. These are huge measuring in at 47″x63″. Once again I found one at a fraction of what it normally goes for. As much as I’ve been trying to not spend money on posters I can’t pass up an amazing deal on something special.

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Original French poster for Escape From New York. Don’t mind the mess around it.

I’ve also been pre-packing things so when the time comes to move I’ll be ready. Also doing some rearranging of my movie room which is taking a lot longer than expected. I watched other people’s movie room tour videos on YouTube (along with game room tours, man cave tours, etc.) and boy was it inspiring. It made me want to go through old things I had boxed away which has been a massive help. Plus it’s been fun finding things from years ago I’m glad I never threw out. I also realized that my massive movie collection is indeed massive. So much organizing and displaying to do.

There are more blog posts to be done, a lot more Vague Ramblings vlog videos to do (I have so many ideas for them), and, of course, a feature film to make. Plus it’s my favorite time of year. Summer!

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12 Films That Have Stayed With Me

On Facebook we tend to get tagged in different things. Luckily I have my settings set to not automatically post something if I’m tagged in it. It saves me the trouble of having to clear out my own page’s wall of free Oakley sunglasses, earn thousands of dollars shopping, or the never ending crowdfunding posts from actors and filmmakers I don’t even know. On occasion some cool posts from friends come along as in this case.

My friend Bob got tagged in a post to list the “12 films that stayed with you” which he in turn tagged me to do one as well. Any film list is always a joy and a hardship. Hardship because I tend to put way too much thought into it. One of the rules is not to put too much thought into it which I disobeyed immediately. When I say disobeyed I’m not being sardonic. I was tagged almost two weeks ago! I mentioned to Bob that I wanted to turn this into a blog post and he thought it was a great idea so he did the same which gave him the chance to expand on his picks. You can see his list over at his blog Constriction Pictures.

Another thing was you could not use two films from the same director twice. I also added an extra one for myself. I am not going to use any film that is among my top ten because otherwise I would just post those. While the films I am posting are favorites I am keeping my top ones out of this. I also will not re-use any film I already used in a previous blog post about films that stayed but in a more disturbing way. You can read that here.

So here are my picks for the 12 films that have stayed with me. They are listed in alphabetical order.

AKIRA (1988)

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This film changed my view on what an animated film could be. I first saw this in the fall of 1992 having heard about it from some friends. Up to this point the only animation I had seen was any Disney kids film and the cartoons on TV. This was the first time I saw an R rated adult aimed animated film. It was an eye opener for many reasons. It was violent which shook me having not seen graphic violence animated before. It was complex (perhaps too complex). The animation was stunning. It had detail unlike any other animated film I had seen. What makes it more amazing, especially today, was that it was all hand drawn.

I couldn’t shake the film because it worked on so many levels for me. To this day it is my favorite animation film of any kind. And yes, the original English dub, despite it’s inaccuracies, is still my favorite.

BATTLE ROYALE (2000)

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An infamous film that is among one of the early films I really heard about on the internet, along with Cannibal Holocaust, as films that took on the “infamous” label and became films I had to see but couldn’t. At least not easily since neither had been released at the time in the U.S.

A film about a high school class sent to participate in the Battle Royale, a kill until there is only one left game, that is sanctioned by the government for one class to do every day. It is needless to say over the top violent and just as engrossing and exciting. This is hyper reality and done in the best way possible.

To say it is unlike anything I had seen before is an understatement and one that is just as incredible the 40th time I watch it as it was the first time. Having watched it recently I can say that with all sincerity. One that has stayed with me all of these years.

CREEPSHOW (1982)

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My love of Creepshow knows no bounds. I have often posted about how much this film means to me so I’ll keep this short. Having coming across the original comic book adaptation months before the film came out I was fascinated as it was, in many ways, also my first introduction to a horror comic. When the film came out I begged my dad to take me to see it and I was completely fascinated by how the film brought that comic I read a hundred times to life. I also watched the entire story of “The Crate” from the lobby window. I think it took several years before I could watch that story in full.

I was introduced to the genius of both Stephen King and, one of my idols, George A. Romero. It was also my first anthology film and I loved it because I felt each story was told perfectly. I never felt like, as is the case in some anthologies for me, that you’re waiting to get through some stories to get to a better one. Each of these is so entertaining and frightening. I was both traumatized and highly inspired (creatively of course) by it.

I’ve written so much about Creepshow over the years I fear I’ll ramble on and on about it so I’ll cut it short but it is no doubt a film that stayed with me and has to this very day.

THE DARK CRYSTAL (1982)

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Jim Henson‘s brilliant The Dark Crystal is, despite its current cult status, is still vastly underrated in my opinion. I saw this film as a kid in the theatre but I had a much different reaction than most. The film was heavily criticized at the time because how could the creator of The Muppets have made this dark fantasy film. I still remember some of the reactions in the crowded theatre from both parents and kids. Except for one. Me. I loved every last second of it.

Much like George Lucas, Jim Henson knew how to create a world. A living world in fact. That is what makes this film so incredible. There are things going on that you don’t even notice the first, second, or even third time you see it. His world and his characters have a life that exists outside of the 90 minute run time. My eyes were constantly filled with wonder and I was thrilled by the adventure we were on to restore the Dark Crystal.

The film is dark. I guess because I’ve always been drawn to “darker” movies even as a kid this never bothered me. If anything it made me love it immediately. I would watch it over and over everytime it was on TV and on home video plus revisiting it again at several theatrical showings over the years.

I’ve read that Jim Henson was hurt by the reaction and dismissal the film received. It hurt him more than anything else in his career. I don’t know if he lived long enough to know there are people who love the film and appreciate what he created. From the very first opening cue of that incredible score I have loved this film. Mr. Henson, wherever you may be, thank you.

THE FOG (1980)

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This film not only stayed with me it introduced me to two things, VHS, and an idol of mine, John Carpenter. When we first got our VCR it was right before ABC premiered The Fog on TV. I recorded it making it the very first thing I ever recorded.

The story of a town overtaken by a fog with ghostly vengeful ghosts freaked me out. The opening scene alone with John Houseman telling the story by the campfire with Carpenter’s incredible music was enough to make me love this film. I watched it over and over and it marked the beginning of my home video life. It also made me realize that I needed to see more films from John Carpenter. Someone who would go on to inspire me like few others.

While my favorite John Carpenter film seems to evolve over time (currently Escape From New York holds that spot) I can’t deny my love for The Fog and everything it created for me.

HER (2013)

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The most recent of films on my list and also the most unexpected. I remember when the film came out and while it sounded intriguing it wasn’t something I ran out to see. Instead I caught it on cable one late night and it hit me unlike any film in quite some time and needless to say, it stayed with me.

Spike Jonze’s take on a love story is brilliant in that it uses a science fiction post modern premise, an artificial intelligence computer, as a way to showcase a very real take on relationships. Since it has this different take it actually opens up the viewer into accepting a story that if told straight with two regular characters might not be as engrossing. What does it mean to fall in love and how it affects who we are and what we bring to it from our past experiences? It is also a great way to show what it’s like to be in a long distance relationship when you don’t have that person sitting next to you but is just a voice.

The film is funny and touching and very honest and in the end one that I ended up watching every time I saw it was on. It really stayed with me and it made me reevaluate certain aspects of my life which is probably the biggest compliment I can give a film.

THE PERFECT WEAPON (1992)

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It’s no surprise that I love martial arts films of all shapes and sizes. So much so I studied martial arts while I was in high school. I found a place that taught Kickboxing and Kung Fu and Kali. During that time The Perfect Weapon came out and it changed more about me than I even noticed at the time. While the film is a fun action film it was one that really showed American Kenpo. There was something about it I became fascinated by and it opened my eyes to it and to the late Ed Parker. I asked my instructor at the time about it and he didn’t have much to say. Either from not knowing much himself or by dismissing it since it was not what he taught. I was just enthralled by the fast and explosive technique of it. I think it also spoke to me because it was very much a self defense and not a tournament based system which is what I was mainly being taught at the time.

When the film came out on video I watched it over and over and was both entertained by the film and fascinated by the techniques. Especially the opening scene which shows Jeff Speakman practicing a Kata, a series of moves together to form a long sequence.

20 years(!) later I finally sought a place that taught it and am now a Blue Belt working towards my Green. As I thought at the time, Kenpo is definitely for me. I love everything about it and it all began from a low budget action film I saw all those years ago. A film I love to this day. Also one I always watch right before I test for a new belt as a reminder of where it all began.

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My five belts (so far) in Kenpo.

RESERVOIR DOGS (1992)

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I was in my freshman year at film school when I first heard of Reservoir Dogs and a filmmaker named Quentin Tarantino. I went and saw a night show of Blade Runner¬† The Director’s Cut at a movie theatre that used to be by the school. I went on an evening after class. Before the film I saw a trailer for Reservoir Dogs and wondered what that was. It was unlike any of the other art house/foreign film melodrama trailers that were shown around it. When it opened I was unable to go despite wanting to badly since it played briefly and my school schedule by that point made going to the movies a hassle. One of my film teachers saw it and I asked him about it since I was dying to see it. He went on about the “useless violence” of the film and that the director was nothing but a sadist. The class went along with his assessment and opted not to see it. Me, already the film school outsider (a blog post for another time), wanted to see it all the more. When it came out on video I rented it right away and watched it. As soon as it ended I knew I had seen something special. I went the next day and bought the laserdisc and then proceeded to watch it over and over.

I told everyone I knew about the film but no one was interested. When True Romance was coming out I told people it’s written by the guy that wrote Reservoir Dogs. No one was interested. I went opening weekend to sit in a theatre with maybe seven other people there. I was just as impressed by his writing that I knew I had to follow this guy’s career. When Pulp Fiction was announced I told people how excited I was for it. “Oh right. You like that Taran … what’s his name? That guy. Whatever.” When Pulp Fiction came out of course we all know the rest. Then everyone I tried telling about him loved him. While I wasn’t alone in noticing the genius of Tarantino I sure felt alone. In the days before the internet I was definitely alone at a film school(!) for admiring this new filmmaker.

I loved this film from the opening Madonna speech to the closing cut to black. It stayed with me because it was exactly everything I wanted to see. Something I wasn’t getting anywhere else. A new filmmaker who had his own voice. It also helped that he was just a big movie geek and I no longer felt so alone.

 

REVENGE OF THE NINJA (1983)

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My love of martial arts films is vast and it doesn’t take much for me to enjoy one. However, there are, what I would call, the epitome of each sub-genre. The ninja sub-genre of the martial arts genre belongs to the great Sho Kosugi and my favorite of his films is Revenge Of The Ninja.

I remember seeing the oversized VHS box of this at the video store as a kid and was mesmerized by the artwork on the cover. Luckily my parents were pretty open to renting me R rated films. So they rented it for me and I loved every part of it. I became so enthralled by ninjas and martial arts that I would rent this film all the time. It became one of those I would rent every other weekend it seemed. At one point I bought a wooden ninja sword and went around pretending to kill all of my friends in true ninja fashion. Much to their dismay.

To this day I love this film a ton. I was probably the most excited person in the world when it came out on Blu-ray last year.

 

STAND BY ME (1986)

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Stand By Me, based on the Stephen King story, is about four 12 year old boys. I saw this film when I was 12 years old. Needless to say it was quite an experience. While it takes place in a different decade than I was living there is still an honesty about where boys are at that age. It’s a real transformative age. While I never went looking for a dead body, well, not a real dead body, I felt like I was one of the characters. They were like my friends. Our conversations were more or less the same. At least in the general sense. The film’s honesty about the characters is what makes it so amazing.

A lot happened in my life when I was 12 and this film helped me deal with it in many ways. I also can’t watch the film without being emotional on some level by the end. It has stayed with me so much that it made me realize how much it was apart of my own 12 year old self. As much as anything that happened in my own life.

THE TERMINATOR (1984)

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I remember seeing the commercials for The Terminator and wanting to see it so badly but wasn’t able to until it came out on video. While it seemed like a cool science fiction film what I wasn’t ready for was just how amazing it really is. While it was a low budget film it never came across that way. It told its story with a vengeance. The young movie me who had an affinity for low budget filmmaking was fascinated how this film was made. I took notice of the then unknown director, James Cameron.

I loved his story telling and how he knew the “tricks” of directing to get around not having tons of money. Ironic since he’s gone on to make some of the most expensive films ever made. Though I still argue he’s one of the few that puts every cent on the screen. It was a clear instance of loving the film and the process all at once.

This film not only opened my eyes to James Cameron but really helped mold who I would become. Striving to make films that go beyond their budget limitations. It led to me pulling off a simple effect in a student film that made everyone in the class especially the teacher ask me how I did it. I learned from the best.

ZOMBIE (1979)

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My fascination with movies has been there for as long as I can remember. So many aspects sparked my curiosity. Some of them weren’t just me wondering how a film was made (knowledge of which was hard to come by in the years before the internet) but also what a film that almost seemed taboo was actually about. While my parents were pretty open to renting me R rated movies they were skeptical if it seemed like it would be too much. A few films I would have to wait until I was a little older but that didn’t stop me from obsessing over the VHS box at the video store. One of those films was Lucio Fulci’s Zombie.

The box cover featured the same image of the rotting corpse that is used on the one sheet (pictured above). Being one of the Wizard Video big boxes it stood out all the more on the video store shelf. I would stare at it for the longest time. When no one was looking I would pick it up and glance at the back. There was a sense that some movies I just shouldn’t watch until I was older so they had a certain taboo about them. I would always wonder, “What is THAT film about?”

Finally the day came when I rented it and it was everything I had hoped it would be. Scary zombies, topless women (I was a teenage boy by this point), tons of gore, and a great atmosphere of dread. Plus it has the infamous scene of a zombie attacking a shark. It was also one of my early introductions to Italian horror films.

To this day it is one of my favorite horror films as it is one of the ones that actually matched my young imagination on what a film called Zombie could actually be. And it was.

 

 

So there are my 12 picks. Ask me tomorrow and half of these might be different but these are no doubt films that have stayed with me.

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Happy Birthday Akira Kurosawa

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I’m sending a special Happy Birthday to Akira Kurosawa. A film director that is arguably one of the greatest filmmakers in film history who helped define and shape films and one that has inspired me greatly.

Kurosawa was a filmmaker, much like Alfred Hitchcock, who knew how to blend the personal expression with the entertainment aspect of movie making. His films are just as intimate as they are entertaining. His style is almost perfect where every frame could be captured and hung on the wall as a piece of art. He knew the power of the frame and utilized it like so few others. His artistry is so powerful that a friend of mine and I always said that if either of us ever felt like we were too full of ourselves as filmmakers all we had to do was watch a Kurosawa film and we would be humbled awfully quick.

His inspiration on me is almost too much to put into words. I’ve often emulated him both knowingly and unknowingly. A shot from my film Distortion is very much like his trademark side shot close ups.

Here is a shot from Rashomon:

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Rashomon.

Here is a shot from Yojimbo:

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Yojimbo.

Here is a shot from my film Distortion:

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Distortion.

His films have inspired filmmakers all over including giants such as Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, and George Lucas. He continues to inspire and entertain. Last year I was lucky enough to finally see Seven Samurai in 35mm on the big screen. Having seen it several times over the years on home video this was the first time in a theatre. It was a truly incredible experience. Arguably one of the greatest films ever made.

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My Japanese Seven Samurai poster from the 1976 re-release.

Happy Birthday Akira Kurosawa. Thank you for years of inspiration and for some of the most amazing films ever created for the medium.

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