Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Shiro's Head Screens at the University of Guam

Click Here for Shiro's Head @ UOG Ticket Info

Okay, I guess the smoke isn't clearing as fast as I thought it would BUT that's a good thing. This week, Shiro's Head will screen at the University of Guam College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences to help raise funds to send 2 UOG students to take a student film out to Bali for a Pacific Asia conference. The name of their film: "Casting Our Net: Rediscovering Community in the 21st Century". The name of the conference: The East West Center International Conference: "Building an Asia Pacific Community: Unity in Diversity", November 13-15, 2008.

This is a pivotal time for Pacific Asian media. With "Shiro's Head", "Casting Our Net" and now "I Fuetsan I Taotao", Don and I want to help the momentum along and to create an awareness for local art by showcasing it where it needs to be. It all starts with the effort. A BIG thanks to Sandra Okada, Charissa Aguon and others involved for initiating such a bold and much needed project. Click Here for Shiro's Head @ UOG Ticket Info

...and yes, I'll be posting about Hawaii and Philly. I'm still unwinding.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

As the Smoke Clears

This past week (not to mention month) has been a wild one. Wow. A lot to soak in. Don and I just flew in from Hawaii from the Louis Vuitton Hawaii International Film Festival and we have much to talk about. Our brother Mike was the proxy for the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival and was amazed at what he saw. There is a lot to tell you all and I'm extremely eager to share - BUT - I just need a little while until things settle so I can get my life back to normal and spend time with family.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Yo, Adrian! (aka) Hafa, Philly?!

At the same time that Encore Presentations of Shiro's Head will show this weekend here on Guam, the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, sponsored by HBO will be showing it as well. Out of hundreds of feature film entries, they will showcase only eight for their inaugural festival. And needless to say, that Don and I are extremely honored that Shiro's Head is one of them. Although Don and I will be here at home during the Philly Film Fest, the Festival Director Joe Kim and staff have been more than hospitable to the people that are heading out east to represent Shiro's Head at the fest. Thanks, Mr. Kim!

Our other brother Mike will be heading up along with a few Guam boys from Houston to check it out. We're as excited to hear about it just as much as you all may be. As soon as we get pics/updates we'll be able to share them with you all as well. If you have any relatives/friends in the Philly/East coast area, please invite them to the showing. I'm sure the guys might be able to squeeze a barbecue into their schedule.;)

Oh and one more thing...YO ADRIAN! I DID IT! Get it? Rocky...Philly? Yeah? No?

Shiro's Head Encore Shows!

Shiro's Head Encore PresentationsThank you to all of you who have voiced your demand for more showings of Shiro's Head! Because of you, there will be 5 Encore Presentations of Shiro's Head this weekend at the Agana Center Stadium Theaters!

So for those that haven't had a chance to get tickets for last weekend's showings (or would just like to see it again) now's your chance! The dates and times are as follows:

Saturday, October 11th
12pm, 3pm and 7pm
Tickets are $10 and are available at these SELECT 76 Circle K locations: Sinajana, Barrigada, Ypao Road (across the UIU building), Dededo and Anigua

Sunday, October 12th

12pm and 3pm
Tickets are $10 and are available at these SELECT 76 Circle K locations: Sinajana, Barrigada, Ypao Road (across the UIU building), Dededo and Anigua

Don and I will be present for a question and answer segment after each show. If you're too shy to raise your hand, no worries. Feel free to come up to us and we can chat face to face if you got time.

Again, THANK YOU for letting your voices be heard. Bring a friend and we'll see you there!

p.s. to my personal friends, guys - especially Dur - don't wait 'til the last minute again, pare! hehe.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Shiro's Head Sold Out Crowds - Thank You!

Again, I just wanted to say "thank you" to all of those who attended the general admission showings over the weekend! WOW! You have no idea how I feel right now! I have to collect my thoughts and devote more in-depth posts to it sometime soon. Count on it! Thanks to you all! Although I'll try my best to thank you individually a little later, I will take a quick moment to say "Thank You" to Ms. Flores my 6th grade art teacher from Agueda Johnston Middle School. She was part of the full house on Sunday's showing. Sorry so short, but there's a lot of last minute stuff I need to get done for the movie. More to come!

Shiro's Head World Premiere - Thank You!

Shiro's Head Red Rug EventThe journey has reached a crazy point in its timeline with the Shiro's Head Red Rug Event and World Premiere taking place last Friday. Words? I have plenty of them - however, there are a lot of things that I'd love to post - especially with all that's happened within the last month - and I will just as soon as the smoke clears (from the film fests, etc), so please stay tuned as I spill my guts about the whole experience within the next few weeks or so.

For now, I must take this time to let everyone know (and I think I speak for Don on this, too) that we are more than forever grateful for your support throughout this entire "nutso" journey. It's a crazy feeling, man. Totally unreal. For those that were there for the Red Rug, thank you for coming out and supporting not only a dream from me and Don, but also for local talent as well as supporting the unsung heroes like those from Erica's House. From family to friends, the bands that came out to perform like Rebel Lion, By Blood, Matala, and the full house of moviegoers who just wanted to see a homegrown flick on a Friday night- THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

-oh and don't worry...once don and i get a chance to settle in, we'll be putting up tons of pics from not only the premiere, but of all the showings. more to come!

photos by Steve Hardy

Monday, September 15, 2008

Relentless Pursuit of Better

Hello again. I know that it's been a couple of months since my last post and I apologize for that. For those that have been following the latest on Shiro's Head and our move back home to Guam, you probably understand why. Thank you for keeping updated on our journey, it really means a lot to us. We've been extremely busy with the movie and with real life. There are tons to talk about but I'll tell you all about it in flashbacks in my future posts. I know blog posts are usually posted sequentially, but hey - it's just another norm to stray from, I guess.

Today, however, I feel the need for my first post back from a long hiatus to be an excerpt from one of my mentors, Seth Godin (from his best-seller "Small is the New Big" pg 174.) If you get it, cool. If not, then don't worry - should you and I ever get a chance to meet, I'd love to explain it.


What an amazing world we live in. Information flying about at the speed of light. Cures or treatments for many major diseases. Airplanes. Food for many, if not most. Cat food that tastes like pate. It almost feels churlish to complain. But here's the deal: Almost everything is lousy. ...What's with the layout of this keyboard? They came up with a keyboard a century ago, decided it was good enough, and then stopped! Holy carpal tunnel, Batman. I've got a few chapters' worth on this topic, but here are my two main ideas:

1. Humans tend to work on a problem until they get a good-enough solution, not a solution that's right.
2. The marketplace often rewards solutions that are cheaper and good enough, instead of investing in the solution that promises to lead to the right answer.

This all sounds pessimistic. Are we doomed to inefficient products, unreliable computers, overpriced services, and new devices that last for a while and then just break? I don't think so. I think that the open nature of the Web and the hypercompetitive environment of worldwide competition are pushing things in two different directions at the same time. First, toward hypercheap, sort of junky stuff that discounters and others want to sell in volume. And second, the "relentless pursuit of better" (RPB). The RPB is the opposite of good enough. It's not Welch's Six Sigma nonsense, through which engineers codify mediocrity. It's a consistent posture of changing the rules on an ongoing basis.

David Neeleman, CEO of JetBlue, was talking recently about the way he's running the airline. By any measure, it's good enough. Hey, it's far and away the best airline in the United States. But he's not even close to settling. He riffed about turning one out of three bathrooms on every one of his planes into a ladies-only bathroom. What a great idea. Low cost. Fast. And embracing the RPB.

I asked him why he doesn't just raise the price on the 20,000 seats JetBlue runs between New York and Florida (every day). If he raised it $10, he'd make an extra $11 million a year in profit! Without losing a customer. He said, "We could always do that later. Right now, it keeps us focused and hungry and efficient to do it for less."

Friday, July 11, 2008

Shiro's Head Trailer - Thank YOU!

Shiro's Head TrailerThe Shiro's Head Official Trailer has been launched this week and I just wanted to take a moment to give my deep and sincere thanks to EVERYBODY for all of your responses. I would also like to thank you all for being extremely supportive and interested enough to come along for the ride while we were making Shiro's Head. From our island brothers and sisters at home on GUAM to Germany, US, Japan, Australia, Brazil, England, France and the rest of the appreciated folks out there - you don't know how much your responses have meant to me and Don - especially after the grueling journey of making such a small, no-name, no-budget DIY film on our own. It's been a long 2 years, but I still wouldn't have done it any other way.

This is a milestone for us at this point in the project and I just wanted to say thank you for being there and for showing your support, your interest and even just dropping in lines to say 'what's up?'. It really means a lot to us and motivates us to keep going when we lose steam.

If we're lucky enough, we'll be able to have a screening for the deep roots on Guam that made all of this possible. Until then, Don or myself will be keeping you posted while I enjoy this little break and reflect on all that's been accomplished so far. So from me to all of you...I just want to say THANK YOU! and stay tuned for more...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Film Quote Fridays #4

For Film Quote Fridays, I couldn't resist posting this one. If you have about 10 minutes to spare, it's absolutely worth it and positively brilliant. I wonder how many days it took to make. 100?

Answer to last week's quote: "Office Space"

Thursday, June 12, 2008

"The Happening"

At first glance, the PR move for Shyamalan's new movie, "The Happening", struck me as a weak way to anticipate a Shyamalan flick. With TV spots constantly billing this as "his first R rated movie", I didn't think that movies of his caliber needed this type of cheap and easy marketing. But then I saw this clip and now I'm hooked.

I like to think that more often than not, that I'm immune to marketing gimmicks. But this clip was interesting enough to get me to plunk down $10 to see it this weekend. I guess the marketing team hooked me - this time. ;)

NOTE: if you think an R rating is nothing special, just watch the last "Rambo" movie. The editors submitted their cut to the MPAA sure that it was going to come back with an NC-17 rating. Much to their surprise, it came back with an R. One of the most gruesome bloodbath flicks I've seen in a long while.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Biggest and The Baddest

When embarking on any project, whether it's starting a new company, your new blog entry or running for office - it's natural to become obsessed with the acceptance of others. Don't worry about being the first or the best, the biggest or the baddest. Just worry about doing your best. Being the best is not for you to decide - that's the people's job.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Freeze Frame Ending

Not everybody can pull off the freeze-frame ending. Not Paul Walker in "Running Scared", not John Philbin and Nia Peeples in "North Shore" either. And certainly not "The Tiny Hands" guys in last week' post. Come to think of it, I believe the only freeze-frame ending that ever nailed it was "Rocky" - thank goodness. Not to mention, it's a pretty out-dated way to end a flick, so I doubt that we'll see any new attempts any time soon. Maybe we should keep it that way. Yuck.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Two Sides to Every Story

One thing that I admire most about filmmaker/docudramatist Morgan Spurlock is that he tries to convey both sides to his stories. Yes, it's easy to poke fun at McDonald's and it's even easier to look down on the government for its lack of alternative to fossil fuels, but chances are, that you're looking at it from an outsider's perspective.

To make a valid argument, you'll need to understand both sides to an issue. And although he clearly has a point to prove in all of his works (corporate carelessness and consumer ignorance in Supersize Me, the lack of government efforts towards a cleaner, safer and preserved environment as a coal miner in 30 Days) he also makes sincere efforts to understand the opposition's viewpoint by immersing himself inside the issue rather than above it.

Until you put yourself in someone else's shoes, you'll never fully understand why things are the way they are. Even if it is just for 30 Days. That's 30 days more than you and I have put in.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Film Quote Fridays #3

"Good evening Sir, my name is Steve. I come from a rough area. I used to be addicted to crack but now I am off it and trying to stay clean. That is why I am selling magazine subscriptions."

Answer to last week's quote: "North Shore"

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Dog Day Afternoon

Dog Day AfternoonThis performance is why Al Pacino is great.

After years and years of hearing about it, I finally was able to watch the legendary "Dog Day Afternoon" starring Al Pacino. Don rented it on Netflix and I can now see why it was always mentioned whenever the classics would come up. I'll tell you this much - the movie had it all... a great story, A GREAT performance by Pacino, a great cast and my favorite...low-down, gritty RAWNESS!

Made in 1975, this movie has to be one of the most organic movies ever made. By that, I mean the setting, the realism, the improvisation, the dialogue, the performances and the directing was subtle, calm, smooth and hit like a sledgehammer!

The Story
Without giving away too much (in case you're the 1 person left on Earth who hasn't seen it. Oh wait...that was me.) the story is based on a real life incident about an unstable man who robs a bank to pay for his lover's operation. From the first five minutes of the movie, the realism sets in as it was perfectly portrayed by the actors and the authenticity of capturing the unfolding of life scenarios, interaction and mannerisms on film. Don and I both agree that this has to be the best bank heist movie ever made.

The Performances
From Charles Durning's portrayal of Detective Moretti to Pacino's unstable Sonny Wortzik, the authenticity of interaction between the cast is captured beautifully and most of all, honestly. Pacino carried the weight of the film on his shoulders and pulled it off from beginning to end - which is no easy feat considering that the entire movie relies upon the layers of struggle that Pacino's character must convey not only consistently - but constantly - always worried, always thoughtful while sprinkling it all with bits of satisfaction here and there.

The Direction
This is the first Sidney Lumet movie I've ever seen. And he gave me a treat from the first establishing shots to the last minutes of the movie. His style was patient, calm and was able to make me feel as if I was experiencing the same anxiety both from the hostages AND from Pacino's character. His sense of establishing a realism and authentic, organic vibe in the film was the best I've ever seen from a major studio movie. I was blown away.

If you haven't already seen it, cheat yourself no longer and make it a point to see it. My brain is crammed with movies from throughout the years and I thought I'd seen it all. Then I saw Dog Day Afternoon.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Top 10 Teen Angst Mainstream Films

Again, as it stands with any other of my lists, ask me on another day and I'll probably have a different list. But today...here it is - my Top 10 Teen Angst Mainstream Movies:

10. Rebel Without a Cause
9. The Breakfast Club
8. Say Anything
7. Romeo and Juliet (The Baz Luhrman Version)
6. Kids
5. Fast Times at Ridgemont High
4. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
3. The Outsiders
2. What's Eating Gilbert Grape
1. American Graffiti

Honorable mention: Thirteen

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The "Tiny Hands" Series

To know me is to make me laugh. The "Tiny Hands" series from Comedy Central's webisodes is pure genius. I mean, from it's low-budget generic production to the dry staleness and comedy of the slacker actors - it's the best a homemade video comedy series can get.

When Don and I stumbled across this last year, I swear - it took a good five minutes for us to stop laughing - which tells you a lot about our style of humor. Plus, David Cross is just the best. Man, I can't wait until we finally get around to making our first comedy.

You can catch the other webisodes here.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Finding the Vibe

Does anyone remember the very first season of American Idol and how the attraction of the show was based on the shock factor of Simon ripping singers to shreds during auditions and making them cry?

Or how about on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition when the first season focused on getting a house completed in just seven days along with the constant bickering amongst the design team rather than the designs?

Or how about on Scrubs when the first season was more of an early twenty-something angst black comedy show?

Well, fast-forward to today and now Idol Gives Back donating millions in charity while drawing in huge A-list talents like Brad Pitt and Mariah Carey while creating real talents like Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson and others to go on to broadway and television.

Extreme Home Makeover just completed two seasons of their 50 State Tour Across America tour not only rebuilding people's homes, but also the lives of people who deserve it - all while focusing on the life-changing positivity and interactivity of the show and giving people a second chance on life.

Scrubs left the airwaves after perfecting its craft of quick-witted editing, stupid-funny jokes and comedic timing that we all know it for while newer shows like Psych and 30 Rock follow in its footsteps.

Sometimes, for a great idea to work, it just takes time.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Film Quote Fridays #2

This week's quote: "Turtle...you made this? You made a big gun?!"

Answer to last week's quote: The Sandlot

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Hummingbird Part 2

After Sunday's hummingbird incident, it reminded me of another encounter. This took place last Christmas. Like any other home, we had our Christmas decorations up including some fake red berries out on the front porch for the festive vibe. Once again, I was sitting outside when a hummingbird flies up and all the way into the porch. It went straight to the fake berries, poked around a bit and then quickly took off. I thought it was pretty cool. It made me think of the way things are marketed and also people in general.

My point? You may fool them at first, but sooner or later they'll see it for what it is.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Filmmaker Sydney Pollack

The thing that comes to mind when I first think about Sydney Pollack is how natural he always seemed when he was acting - from Tootsie to Michael Clayton - even in a movie that he's starring and directing in. My most memorable Sydney Pollack role was in Eyes Wide Shut. His scenes with Tom Cruise left enough of an impact to stick in my head for almost ten years now.

But many of us would overlook his passion as a director and filmmaker which is evident in his work as well as in "Boffo! Tinseltown's Bombs and Blockbusters". This clip is just a reminder. Bravo, Sydney! And thank you.

The Scare

Sunday morning was one of those calm, quiet Sundays. I was sitting on the front porch, enjoying a little quiet time, sipping my coffee and just lost in thought. When all of a sudden, out from nowhere, I hear a thick, fast WHOOSH inches from my right ear. Startled, my reflexes kicked in, my body jumped and I quickly ducked and turned my head away. You know...one of those times. I swear, my heart went from 0 to 60 in just a second.

As I collected my bearings I turned to look at what I expected to be a flying beetle, a bee, etc. but instead found a little hummingbird floating and staring at me. After a couple of seconds of exchanging stares, the little thing just took off to inspect some nearby flowers. After the quietness settled back in I couldn't stop laughing at myself.

I guess sometimes, some things aren't as bad as we make them out to be.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

From the moment I saw the trailer last year, I knew it was something that I had to see. After months of working post production on Shiro's Head, I was finally able to catch "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" from Netflix over the weekend. First off, the editing was was a building block to the whole story courtesy of the skillfull Juliette Welfling. The cinematography from award winning top-tier DP Janusz Kaminski was as good as any movie can get. The cast led by Mathieu Amalric was superb and the screenplay writing (though I watched the English subtitled version adapted from the book by Jean-Dominique Bauby) from Ronald Harwood was moving. Mostly, the artistic direction and guts from American director Julian Schnabel was way more than I initially expected and was prepared to give him credit for.

This real life account of the editor of French "Elle" fashion magazine Jean-Dominique Bauby was played out like a moving painting. In 1995, Bauby was a high-rolling French playboy who had a life-threatening stroke that left him paralyzed from the head down. His condition was a rare one known as "locked-in syndrome". He was only able to blink his left eye. It was with the blinking of his left eye that he was able to communicate with others to write his memoirs which later became a successful bestseller.

Because there is way too much in this movie that will allow me to ramble on for days, I'll break it down to just a few of my high points. It's a uniquely great movie that is not only touching, but inspiring and artistically driven. I won't spoil it too much for you: Director Schnabel has won me over (which isn't easy to do) with respect as a director with a REAL vision. Rocker, former fashion model and "Mrs. Polanski" Emmanuelle Seigner of "Ultra Orange and Emmanuelle" gives a BAD-ASS , empowering performance as Bauby's ex and the mother of his children (she also has a song that sets the tone for the soundtrack entitled "Don't Kiss Me Goodbye"). Max von Sydow gives an emotional performance as Jean's father, I feel like I now know Marie Josee Croze just from her sensitive performance and the cool soundtrack is perfectly accompanied with rich visuals I won't soon forget.

Although this movie won't be for everyone, those who do "get it" will appreciate it. Definitely one for the collection.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Three Day Weekends

I used to think that moving an observed holiday such as "Memorial Day" to a Monday just to accommodate an efficient three day weekend dilutes the actual original meaning and weight of the holiday in the first place.

But as I kept thinking, I realized that because of this, it also gives families and friends the chance to spend more sequential time together with loved ones and to reflect on the day while honoring those that are no longer with them - which I think adds just as much weight to the purpose of the holidays and the meaning behind them.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Film Quote Fridays

In film school, one of my Directing course instructors would always start off each class by calling role with favorite film quotes. He'd call our names and instead of answering with a "present" or "here" we would respond with a favorite film quote.

You would think with over 25 students in the class we would run out of quotes, but we never did. Somehow we always found a new one. One of my favorites? "You're killing me, Smalls!"

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bear Grylls' Philosophy

As Don put it, most 23 year-olds were crashing hotel parties or trying to climb the corporate ladder while Bear Grylls was climbing Mt. Everest.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of meeting Bear Grylls at a book signing and he said something that stuck. Something that was simple. Someone asked the usual question about having any advice for those of us in the room.

He took a breath and seconds later responded with his famous British accent: "No matter what it is you do, never, never, never give up." "Hmmmm...", I said to myself. "Sounds a little cliche Bear". Well, read on.

So Bear went on to compare instances of women who were stranded from a plane crash and were later rescued because they'd survived days in the woods vs. muscle-laden soldiers of the British Army who couldn't survive at least two days after being stranded. The reason? It all starts with not giving up. Because the women didn't give up, they had a stronger driving force that kept them alive one day longer - just enough to get back to their children. It was their stronger desire to live for their children that kept them going one day longer.

Bear stated that anyone is capable of anything if they want it bad enough. What it basically comes down to is "If you give up, you fail. Who wants it more? Who's willing to go the distance and put everything on the line?" Anyone faced with any obstacle can "survive" - and it all starts with not giving up.

That's advice I'm more than happy to take from someone who's not only doing what he loves to do for a living, but has accomplished more things in the last 10 years than most people even get to attempt in a lifetime. Cheerio!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

And With That Said...

In regards to yesterday's post, I still think this clip is funny. You need to watch the clip from beginning to end for full effect.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Man vs. Wild or TV vs. Real Life.

For those that don't know Bear Grylls, he's the bug-eating dude on Man vs. Wild on Discovery Channel.

It's amazing that when the subject of his TV show comes up, some people think that he's fake because his show doesn't put him in "real" danger. Some people think that he really should be putting his life on the line in every situation, every week on every show. Otherwise, to them, anything less would be fake. Well, I'm pretty sure that would be silly, not to mention very naive.

I always thought it was obvious that the TV show is just a representation of tips and tricks on what to do if you were ever in similar situations. Not once did I ever take it literally. In fact, I'd be nuts if I did. To me it's always been what it is - fun infotainment. Believe it or not, everything on TV has to be produced - from reality shows to the news to presidential debates. I mean if you look to TV or movies for reality, then you'd be in trouble. So c'mon people. Snap out of it.

What amazes me the most is how a lot of people still don't know where to draw the line between real life and TV and their expectations of each. That's just plain scary.

I know because Baltar told me so.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Formula for a Great Movie

There is none. Not even the media mecca of Hollywood knows what it is.

Studios didn't want to take a risk on first-time filmmakers Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris when they pitched an idea for an indie movie called "Little Miss Sunshine". But whoever did now has two Oscars. This led to more studios investing in similar movies like "Juno".

Hollywood spends millions and millions every year to try and find it. And more often than not, they're unsuccessful. Here are a few examples:

You can have great directing like Darren Aronofsky in "The Fountain" and Danny Boyle in "The Beach" and not even make a blip on the radar.

You can have top A-List actors like Robert Redford, Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep in "Lions for Lambs" and people still won't flood the box office.

You can have a huge budget topped with special effects like in "Lady In the Water" and it could disappear faster than it arrived.

You can have a great writer like Paul Haggis write "In the Valley of Elah" and still not get any play.

You can have a great editor like Jill Bilcock in "Romeo and Juliet" and "Moulin Rouge" and still get snubbed by the Academy.

You can have a great vision like in "The Libertine" and people still won't get it.

And you can have it all - like writer, director, producer, editor, musician Robert Rodriguez and still not be a top-tier name to the general public.

This is why so many movies feature the low common denominators of car chases, explosions, guns, good looking faces, sex and money - because they are basically the safest and financially proven movie ingredients that are needed for the masses to get up, go out and see a film.

As a filmmaker you have to realize that filmmaking is a risk. If it's really worth it, you just have to do your best, believe in yourself, your project and in the people you work with and take that leap of faith. When all is said and done, movie making is a HUGE risk. But it's a risk that might work just as much as it might not. You're really never going to know until you do it. So just take a deep breath, take the risk on yourself and go for broke - literally and figuratively. ;)

Friday, May 16, 2008

True or False. Which one are You?

People make films for different reasons. It's when you use this powerful medium for fake intentions do things and people get all messed up in the process. Such was the case with the Max Havoc debacle. So, I just wanted to share a quick observation about the sincere "True" filmmakers vs. the insincere "False" filmmakers that I've just recently thought about.

False Ones depend fully on other people's money. True Ones will put their money where their mouth is.
False Ones love the hype. True Ones let their work do all the talking.
False Ones cockblock. True Ones share.
False Ones only talk to people who matter. True Ones think everyone matters.
False Ones feel the need to "play the role". True Ones don't have to.

Thanks for the inspiration, Roger Corman!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

5 Unfair Disadvantages for Movies vs. Books

Often times, when people watch movies that have been adapted from books (which are like, all of them) they often feel "robbed" of the original experience that they initially got from the reading the book. But is it a fair comparison? Here are five reasons why comparing books and movies are like comparing apples and oranges:

5. When reading the book, your imagination is the screen. Possibilities are limitless.

4. Books > 250 pages. Screenplays < 150 pages.

3. Authors don't have to worry about staying within budget.

2. Movies need to be seen in one sitting. Books are read leisurely.

1. Tom Hanks in The DaVinci Code. :)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

5 Reasons Why Moviemaking is Like Food

5. You can have all the expensive brand-name ingredients you think you need to make a great meal, but at the end of the day, what it all comes down to is taste.

4. Whether it's SPAM and rice or Crème brûlée of foie gras with Tonga beans - passion, effort, care, pride and quality will shine through any dish.

3. Just because you went to culinary school doesn't mean that you can out-cook the little old lady down the street.

2. No one likes eating the same stuff over and over and over again. Give them some new flavor.

1. The proof is in the pudding.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Diesel Film Racing - 24 Hour Filmmaking

Can you make a movie in 24 hours? Geoff Summers of Filmracing.com has informed me that their nationwide competition and 2008 city tour is making its rounds. Contestants have just 24 hours to write, shoot, edit and score an original film no longer than 4 minutes (including credits) based on their theme and surprise element assignment.

Contestants have the chance to win up to $2,500 in cash and thousands more in HUGE prizes that include Avid Media Composer software, a scholarship to Writer's Bootcamp, Storyboard Quick v.5 and Gorilla 4 Standard Edition software. Plus you can vie for awards in categories such as
Direction, Acting, Writing, Cinematography, Editing, Original Music Score, Sound Design, Costume Design, Visual FX, Special FX and many more.

You'll also have the opportunity at national exposure with your flick playing on the big screens nationally and possibly in other countries.
It's a great avenue for budding filmmakers to test their creative and technical skills in just 24 hours.

Good luck to you all! And thanks for the heads, up Geoff! For more info, visit the Diesel Film Racing Tour at Filmracing.com

Friday, May 9, 2008

Stay Green, Pony Boy

When people venture into new positions of decision-making without much experience, something strange happens. Because they are still green, they are unaware of the limits, impossibilities and rules that were previously set in place by others. They try to do things without knowing they can't be done. This is a good thing.

New blood brings new ideas which bring new effort towards progress.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Top 16 Underdog Movies

My earlier post featuring a clip from the movie "Breaking Away" reminded me of all my favorite underdog flicks. And after thinking about it, I thought I'd dedicate this post to the classics. I know - they're open for debate - and if you ask me at a different time, I'll probably have a different list, but here they are as of now:

16. Rudy
15. Startup.com
14. American Movie
13. October Sky
12. The Count of Monte Cristo
11. The Passion of the Christ*
10. School of Rock
09. The Karate Kid
08. North Shore
07. Seabiscuit
06. Jerry Maguire*
05. Breaking Away
04. La Bamba
03. Million Dollar Baby
02. It's a Wonderful Life*
01. Rocky

(*yes, it qualifies)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Recreation of D-Day

I can't tell you how excited I get every time I watch this. I found this cool video clip of three graphic designers and how they managed to recreate D-Day on a tiny budget for an episode of the BBC history show Timewatch.

You have to watch the whole thing from beginning to end to fully appreciate it. Just fantastic.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

First Impressions

Do you remember the first impression you got from each of your closest friends? Do you know their first impression of you? What about from your boss? Or your coworkers? Or your spouse?

Most people won't be able to remember everything about another person, but first impressions stick with people - good or bad - for a long, long time. What first impression will you or your work make next?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Frakkin' Favreau! 4 Reasons to See Iron Man

Not being in tune with graphic novels or comics, I'm not usually one to race out and catch the latest comic book-based movie especially after The Hulk and Fantastic Four. BUT...this weekend I caught Iron Man on the big screen and I have to say...I was blown away! It was a great surprise throughout the whole flick (don't worry - no spoilers):

1. Great Pacing
From the moment the movie starts up to the very end...the ride was wild and well-timed. The action, comedic pace and over-the-top dramatics were well delivered by Robert Downey Jr. (freaked me out), Jeff Bridges and Gwenyth Paltrow and Terrence Howard.

2. Great Style
Throughout the drama and action, the movie was able to maintain a comic-book style and feel that was well played over-the-top which really complemented Downey Jr.'s amped-up antics.

3. Actors Reigning It In
You're talking about leading actors such as Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges and Gwenyth Paltrow in supporting roles - but they played it perfectly as each one of them was able to tone down their talents to not only fit their supporting roles, but to make the most of every bit of screen time with that talent - especially Jeff Bridges' subtlety in delivering a great, menacing performance. He really switched himself up for this one. And Robert Downey Jr.? Other Brat-Packers should take note...this is how you make a comeback!

4. The Directing
Believe it or not, it wasn't until the end credits that I discovered that Jon Favreau directed it! Huh? You mean Rudy, Made, Elf and Dinner for Five? That Jon Favreau?! Yep. I was probably the only one on the planet that didn't know that. But because of that, the movie actually won me over on its own merits. That was the best surprise of all, because not in a million years would I have guessed Jon Favreau to be able to orchestrate a well-paced, well directed big-budget action flick that is actually FUN! The studio stock in Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau the director is well on the rise. 2 thumbs up!

(Reason 5: there's a cool scene after the end credits!)

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Public Access. Goth Style.

Wow. Do you know those moments in life where you find yourself reaching for the nearest pillow in a sad attempt to hide from something embarrassing? Well, grab a pillow. I kinda feel bad for the guy.

Note: My favorite parts are the cutaway to the giggly lady and the Goth rap. Just a wee bit more pre-production wouldn't hurt next time, guys. I do give an A for effort, though. At least you had the guts to do it ;)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Passion and Permission

The next 1st round draft pick.
The next American Idol.
The next winner of Project Runway.
and so on and so on.

These are the same people that in obscurity had no fan base, no big paycheck, but have always been doing what they've done. It's just that this time they have a bigger stage. So for the masses, it makes it okay to like them.

Usually, to be noteworthy in your field of passion, you'd have to wait until someone like a studio executive gave you permission. In my eyes, there are already tons of noteworthy artists out there - it's just that the mass audience is still waiting for someone to grant permission to like them. Or is it that the artists are still waiting for permission?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Nothing to Lose

Since Naomi and I have been watching American Idol (yes, I'm guilty) we've noticed something interesting during the elimination rounds. The contestants that get the boot usually sing better during their goodbye performances than they do during their actual competition round.

My theory? They have nothing left to lose. After the ax falls, they just let it all out with the most honest emotions, raw pain and passion getting the best of them. No worries about getting the lyrics right, winning the votes or pleasing Simon - they just sing their hearts out.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Knowledge Is(n't) Power

Barry Sanders, Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, Brett Favre and Tom Brady were never known to be big talkers. But they are known as big doers. However, Muhammad Ali and Deion Sanders were big talkers - but- they were also big doers.

You can talk all you want about as many issues as you want, but if you don't take action, then it's pointless. Knowledge by itself is useless. The power is in the doing, not the talking.

Teach by example...just like this.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Yes, It's True:

Anchors really do wear gym shorts or jeans behind the news desk.
People with Mercedes-Benz's and BMW's do shop at Kmart, Wal-Mart and Target and still complain about the prices.
The smallest women drive the biggest SUV's.
Contact lenses come in over 5 different colors.

The suspension of disbelief makes or breaks one's influence over others. From the latte you're sipping to the person you marry, the power of perception may be strong (heck, Hollywood built and sustained an industry on that fact alone) but perception is only good for initial attention.

My point? The key is what you do with it afterwards. Fakes are transparent.

Monday, April 28, 2008

10 Life Lessons from Filmmaking

10. Solutions are everywhere. It just depends how stubborn you are to notice.
09. You are your most valuable asset.
08. Share your work and yourself - otherwise, it's pointless.
07. You have to start somewhere.
06. It doesn't matter if you have the textbook knowledge or the talent. You need both.
05. Two is better than one.
04. If you are good to people, they'll remember it. Same goes for if you aren't.
03. When you get lucky - enjoy it, 'cause it doesn't happen often.
02. If it's really good, it won't be easy.
01. At the end of the day, it is what it is.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Leaving the Small Town

It doesn't matter if it's Annandale, Virginia or Lawton, Oklahoma or Yona, Guam or Bloomington, Indiana or Sandy, Utah or Farmersville, California. There are dreamers out there.

Like any dreamer, townies have always dreamt about leaving behind the small town for the big city in hopes of hitting the "big time". Maybe it's the glitz, maybe it's the money, maybe it's the need to prove something or to re-invent themselves in a new crowd.

It's only natural for us as people to want to grow. We need growth and stimulation in order to feel complete or content. It's always been the natural course for townies to want to leave behind the small, mundane life for something bigger and in their eyes, better.

Today, however, things are different. These days, the dreamers are slowly discovering that they don't have to leave to find it...they just have to know where to look.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Asterix alle Olimpiadi

Here's a movie poster that we saw in Florence at the train station. The latest in a series of comic book-based spoof movies, "Asterix at the Olympic Games" starring Gerard Depardieu, apparently didn't do so well with viewers. I guess bad sequels are inescapable no matter what country you're in.

Check out the trailer here.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The American Tourist

Why do we Americans get such a bad rap when visiting other countries? Well, the sure fire way to find out is to put the shoe on the other foot (the way filmmaker Morgan Spurlock does). As a tourist myself, I've had enough time in Europe to observe the local Italians and compare them to the notorious American tourist - and from what I've seen, the majority of mainland American tourists tend to be loud, obnoxious, arrogant, impatient, self-centered and ignorant.

In the airplanes, in the trains, in the restaurants, in the continental breakfast rooms, on the tours, wherever I went I noticed that the loudest of all the people were the Americans. Loud American teens on vacation, loud American adults talking on their cell phones and loud conversations in what should be tranquil restaurants. The loudest of all were the Americans.

Obnoxious, Arrogant and Impatient
In Venice, in the vaparetto (water bus) line, an American man was causing a commotion by shoving his way to the front of the line complaining about all the people boarding the bus ahead of him. He was then corrected by a group of local Italians that said he was in the wrong line for that particular bus. Trying to save face, he asked the Italian man next to him, "How much are those boat rides, anyway...you know, those Gonduhluh - or how do you guys say it? (insert condescending tone here) Gahn-Doe-Lah rides?" To which the Italian man replied in a calm voice, "Depends. If you are American, you pay twice."

Self-Centered and Ignorant
On the EuroStar train in Europe, you have designated seats on your ticket just like on an airplane. As the crowded train made a stop, an Italian lady got onboard struggling with an armful of bags. She and her companion approached their seats and found that a group of loud American teenage girls were sitting in them. Thinking that there was some sort of mix-up, the lady (not knowing any English) tried her best to convey that the seats matched the number on her ticket. The kids just sat there looking at the lady and each other while shrugging their shoulders.

The train started to move, the bags I guess were getting heavy and after a couple of minutes of getting nowhere, the Italian lady huffed off to find another seat in the crowded train. After she left, the American chaperone comes over and asks the girls what had happened. The girls said that they weren't sitting in their assigned seats because they were too far apart and wanted to sit together, so they took the empty seats. They went on to say that it was okay, though, because the lady had already left.

You have to check this out if you think I'm not being fair.

photo by: rflashman

Monday, April 14, 2008

More Than Meets the Eye

In Florence, Naomi and I bought some oranges at the local supermarket and went back to the hotel. When we were ready to eat them, we peeled them and found something strange. They were red inside and had a kind of red tint. We were already feeling a bit under the weather, so we didn't want to increase our chances of getting worse by eating spoiled oranges. Days later we left for the U.S. disregarding the oranges we had left on the night stand.

Foolish American
On the plane ride back to the U.S., during one of our in-flight meals we were each served a sandwich. The sandwich wrappers had a little fun fact about the history of oranges.

"More than 400 varieties worldwide" it said. Just then I realized that I missed out on a new taste experience just because I was ignorant enough to believe that they were spoiled. All because they didn't look like the oranges we were used to.

NOTE: Michelangelo sculpted the statue of David from an unwanted block of marble that was considered useless just because it had a crack in it. And the oranges? After further research I discovered they were actually "Blood Oranges" popular in Italy - which, as it happens, are not only sweet, but are exceptionally healthy, being rich in antioxidants. Shucks.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Camp Roxas Film Documentary

As much as I can, I make it a point to take my son to the Guam Art Gallery at UOG to renew our eyes through different exhibits. Last February we were fortunate enough to see the Camp Roxas documentary sizzle reel and photo exhibition. If you haven't yet heard about the Camp Roxas movie, check out this great article about the Guam documentary spearheaded by Bernadette Provido Schumann which includes talents like Chamorro director Alex Munoz.

This premise is not only interesting, but inspiring and has been able to gather a very positive light on what was almost a lost but very important time in Guam's history. A very big thumbs up to Bernadette and crew! Great job Burt! This film is one of the building blocks we need in preserving Guam's culture and history for ages to come.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Layers. Like an Onion.

A week after coming home from my trip to Italy, I found myself back on the road (or sky) at LAX Intl. en route to Japan. While standing in the security check line, I can overhear a father conversing with his teenage daughter behind me.

...and we might end up going to Rome, too.
Rome?! But I heard it's too touristy. I heard there are like, way too many tourists there. We should try going somewhere else - somewhere where it's not so known.
Well, we'll see.
God, I'm starving. Do you see a Starbuck's?

Looking Beyond the Surface

Like Donkey said to Shrek, "You know, not everybody likes onions." And it's true. To each is their own. Not everyone will appreciate or understand the layers and depth of the art, stories and messages that are found not just in places like Rome or Guam, or even in movies like "No Country for Old Men", but everywhere in this matrix that we call life. There are some people that feel they shouldn't have to make an effort to enjoy something.

Top 40, commercial, mainstream, shallow, whatever. My point is this: Not everyone sees beyond the matrix that exists . And even though we're all capable, some simply don't want to.

photo by Kel Muna 2008

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Limitations of a Camera

I have finally discovered the limitations of a camera. Trust me when I say that there are no lenses, bodies, filters or footage that can do justice to the grandeur of detailed architecture and beauty found throughout Italy. Scale, depth and perspective through a camera lens falls short.

Simply put - when I saw The Leaning Tower in person, I freaked out. The thing is huge.

photo by Kel Muna 2008

Monday, April 7, 2008

My Arnette Swingers

From my years in radio, advertising and film school to television news, me and Don's early days in business, wedding videography, commercial videography, filmmaking and the journey of making Shiro's Head, it's been with me forever. 9 years. It's been through six moves, my wedding, 6 trips to Guam and back, Japan, Italy - from San Francisco to Florida, good days and bad days, beach and snow, break ups and make ups, it's been there. I've relied on it without any thought.

Until one day at the airport, for five seconds I took my eyes off my backpack. In those five seconds,the heavy-ass backpack took a fall forward. It wasn't even a hard fall, it was one of those weird slow-falls. Nonetheless, I opened the front pouch to the backpack and there it was. Just when I was beginning to think that some things last forever...

Thursday, April 3, 2008

think BIG. STAY small. BE SMART.

In Europe, it seems that the practicality of transportation trumps the aspect of vanity. No 20" rims on a monstrous gas-guzzling SUV that never even leaves the concrete streets of Suburbia. No, their roads are small, narrow and old, which give Italian cities no choice but to be walking-friendly, full of men and women in suits either walking, riding bicycles or motor scooters to work or to the train stations. Yep, even in full-on makeup, fixed hair and jewelry, ladies will ride their bicycles through the cobblestone streets without regard.

Acting Smart
What I've found to be most impressive is that when they do take to the open road, their main choice of transport takes the form of a cool, little car called the 'Smart Car'. These economical little two-seaters with small trunks are gas mileage friendly and are more than capable enough to get you from point A to point Z and back. Plus, they serve a purpose - and it's not to feed the "I wanna fit in!" syndrome. They use their little cars for, wouldn't you believe it...transportation?

My point is this: People often do things that aren't smart, just because it's the trend. These people are usually the masses. You'll have a better chance at staying a step ahead by understanding the trend, thinking without a box and then going your own way.


photo by Kel Muna 2008

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Nagoya Airport Fun! Arigato Gozaimasu!

Taking a break from more of my Italy journey, I just wanted to give you a glimpse of the scope of entertainment Japan invested into their travel industry at the Nagoya Intl. airport. I was back in Japan last week.

Traveling by myself this time, I was able to venture off and explore the nooks of the airport and this is just some of what I've found:

A trumpet playing humanoid robot, entertainment for kids complete with live characters and jumbotron, the Skydeck (an observation deck to view near 360 degrees of planes taking off, landing, etc.), a mini Segway scooter track, countless shops, eateries, restaurants of international cuisine, relaxation spas and three hotels connected to the airport with a hub for trains and speedboats.

Not to mention, the airport actually sits on a man-made island in the ocean.

By the way, it is by far the cleanest airport I've been to. And I've been to a lot.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Guam's Cultural Renaissance

Here's an interesting article that I found on PDN. Good stuff. I hope more people get a chance to read it.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Things Gotta Change

"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." - Charles Darwin

The country of Italy has seen it all. In one of history's richest timelines (from ancient times to medieval times to the renaissance to the baroque period and up to modern times) wars, art, government, religion...they've seen it all - yet they're still here to tell the tales. How the heck did they do that?

To Remain the Same, You Must Change

After the lessons in history and art with historians and the occasional tour guide, I often asked myself how they did it. What made them endure for so long? And then the answer became obvious. The more the times shifted, the more their people adapted. And with change comes growth.

Today, the same efforts, beliefs, pride, discipline and craftsmanship of their forefathers are still evident only this time instead of massive duomos and numerous frescos, their skills are seen through world-leading fashion, high performance autos and culinary arts. Sure, it's not the works of Rennaissance artistry, but this isn't the Rennaissance.

Like Leonardo da Vinci to Feruccio Lamborghini, Chief Hurao to Angel Santos - the core beliefs, values, traditions, pride and discipline of a people should be taught and practiced through the ages for future generations to adapt in order to preserve the greatness for new ages to come.

Roman Colosseum photo by Kel Muna 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008

Guam's Future

A quick, but crucial observation that I've taken from my Italy trip:
DO great things...then when you're done...teach your people to DO great things.

photos by Kel Muna 2008

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Don't Sellout, Sell In

If you Google the words 'coffee' or 'starbucks', I'm pretty sure that you'll see this:

And it's true. They are the leading retailer of specialty coffee in the world. In fact, just a few days ago, on my way to LAX Intl. Airport, I actually saw one Starbuck's coffee shop across the street from another Starbuck's coffee shop less than fifty yards away.

Now, I enjoy my 'vente chai tea latte with a double-shot of espresso' as much as the next guy. I'm not a crazed fanatic like some, but I can appreciate it. So when Naomi and I got to Italy, it was western instinct to look for the nearest Starbuck's as we passed through airports, train stations, and streets in search of our caffeine fix. But instead of Starbuck's, we discovered something more interesting.

Because It Matters

In all the places we visited in Italy we came across not one Starbuck's. At all. I'm not saying that they don't exist there, but even while making a conscious effort to keep my eyes peeled for one, I never found one. Coming from the US where you can find one on any street corner, it was actually refreshing. What we did find were these small, personable coffee bars with standing room only that served authentic blends of Italian caffe and fresh Italian bread and pastries. And these we did find everywhere.

In Italy, just like their wine and mostly everything else from the country, they take pride in their caffe (coffee). For obvious reasons, they hold that close to their hearts even through the public both locally and for tourists, but especially in tourist populated areas. This tells me that as globally proven and widespread as the yummy Starbuck's is, the people of Italy still hold true to their ways because to them, it matters.

Quantity or Quality?
My learned lesson and point is this: Once you start mass-selling something that isn't you, whether it's culturally or personally, you'll lose what little you'll have left. If you're looking to hit "the big-time", worldwide expansion, or to be the leading 'anything' in the world, chances are you're going to lose some of your authenticity along the way (over 35 blends). If you're smart, you'll keep it personable and stay true without diluting what makes you and your culture unique so when others experience what you have to offer in your own motherland, it will not just be more impactful, but more memorable.

(Food for Thought: Guam has over 7 McDonald's locations and only 1 Chode Store)

photo by Kel Muna 2008

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Art Lasts Forever

While Naomi and I were visiting Italy, Don and Mom were in Memphis visiting Graceland, the home of Elvis. It didn't take long for me to realize that essentially it was the same thing, just on different scales. We were on different trips for the same reason: To gain insight into the history of preserved worlds and experience the legacy of legends that existed once upon a time.

From all of my observations throughout the country of Italy, I've learned many things - one of which is for certain: ART LASTS FOREVER. It outlives its creators and continues to live throughout history in the hearts, minds and stories for ages to come; moreso than any monetary value possessed by any country at any time has ever done. Reason being is that no matter what form of art it may be, it is open to interpretation forever and for everyone, which gives it new life and new strength and a reference point in time to the people that once surrounded it. Art opens up questions and answers of thought, romance, wonderment and mystique on many levels.

Take It Personal
It didn't matter where we were - whether the Capella Sistina in Roma (Sistine Chapel in Rome) or the Palazzo Ducale di Venizia (Doge's Palace in Venice), the art always had a story and presented us not only a peek but sometimes an explanation as to why things were the way they were at that specific point in time and place. It provided a history for its people who haven't been around for thousands of years. But not the kind of history you'd read about in a textbook and recite to impress friends. No. Art, when it is up close and in person, is history that is felt. It spills into your senses the emotion, thought, wonder and excitement of a place and time that you probably may never fully understand. But up close and in person, the art brings you right in.

It's a feeling that as a DIY filmmaker makes me feel like crap and like a king. Crap because nowadays contemporary artists, myself included, (and I mean that humbly) can't hold a candle to those of yore - not even close. But at the same time like a king because it tells me that as an artist in my own form of media and place in time, I have the amazing power to do the same, allowing me to empathize on a minute scale with artists of the past. Not for personal wealth or clout - it goes way beyond that - but through the contribution of my small part in potentially keeping the here and now alive forever for my culture.

A Mirror in History

No matter where it was we went, the art was constantly referenced by scholars and historians as bookmarks in history for a people that are long gone. What would've happened if The King never went to Sun Records? What would that have meant for the musicians of today? What if Michelangelo didn't even think twice about his rival Raphael? Would the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel be as passionate and shocking as it is?

Whether it's Michelangelo's David, Elvis' "Heartbreak Hotel" or even J.D. Crutch's "Bente Unu", the power of art can live through time, inspire others and help to preserve not only a culture, but a place and time that may otherwise someday become lost - or even worse - forgotten.

photos by Kel Muna and Don Muna 2008

What's In a Name?

Taking a quick break from posting about my Italy adventures, I have a quick note about the safe choice. I just spent a couple of days in Japan en route to Guam and I was reminded about the effects of a name when dealing with the convenience of familiarity in the subconscious psyche. While checking for a place to lay my head, I automatically went to the nearest "Comfort Inn" (i know, such a western tourist move) searching for a double occupancy twin-size room. The room rates were equivalent to $160.00 USD per night.

After checking with the locally preferred, yet lesser-known "Toyoko Inn" just a few yards further down the street, their rates were equivalent to only $80.00 USD for the same room. The amenities were pretty much the same as the "Comfort Inn" (free airport shuttle, internet, meeting room, private bath, continental-style breakfast, tv and more) and I'm sure to the weary traveler, the beds are just as comfortable. My point? A familiar or "proven" choice may seem like the best choice just by automation, but if you're willing to look past your comfort zone from what you already know, you just might discover something great.

Monday, March 17, 2008

To Preserve a Culture

It's been a couple of weeks since my last posting, mainly because Italy has put Shiro's Head on a small two week hiatus. My wife and I have just returned from a trip to Italy - an amazing, passionate country that will leave a profound impression on my life forever. And although the course of this trip has given me a new perspective on art, history and the preservation of culture (which has given me new ideas and theories relative to the current Chamorro culture struggle), it's taught me a lot about people in general. To experience something that makes you feel like you've been asleep for a long time only to wake up with new eyes is something very, very powerful.

Up Ahead...

For the next week (and whenever the mood strikes, I guess) I'll be writing about the things that I've learned and observed from my journey. There will be many levels to talk about - from the renaissance to Starbuck's - and although I feel like a thoroughbred waiting behind the gate ready to explode across the track, its best that I try to calm myself down, take a breather and distribute them in installments instead of overwhelming you all with that over-eager "Hey, come check out my slideshow from my vacation!" feeling.

In addition, because the emotions, feelings and ideas from this trip affect me more than any words can explain, I hope I do justice in conveying my experiences from Italia. I hope you enjoy - and if you get to learn or become inspired through them even by a fraction of what I've experienced, then all the better. Esta gupa.

photo by Kel Muna 2008

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Don't Follow Your Dreams

My son said to me once, "Dad, do you follow your dreams?", to which I replied, "Of course I do." He then said, "Well you should chase them because if you just follow them, you'll never catch them."

What Would YOU Chase?
If you could do anything you wanted with your time, what would it be? What one thing are you so passionate about that it would keep you active, goal-oriented, happy and who knows - maybe even let you quit your job? I know - you're saying that it wouldn't be possible because of the money, bills and maybe kids that you're currently working for. But here's a crazy thought: what if you tried and were successful? What do you do best and enjoy most? You have only one life. Excuses, doubt and fear will always be part of it. It's up to you to let them get in the way.

Don't follow your dreams. Chase them.
Thanks little acid feet.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Falling Slowly

The Oscars seemed to have gone in the direction as expected. Daniel Day-Lewis walked away with Best Lead Actor, Marion Cotillard for Best Lead Actress, the Coen Brothers with best adapted screenplay and directing, No Country took best picture and so on. The only surprise was an unknown independent "little movie that could" which walked away with Best Song.

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!
The song "Falling Slowly" from the indie movie "Once" sincerely tapped into the emotions of people worldwide with the performance of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. "Falling Slowly" was up against not one, not two, but three songs from the movie "Enchanted" and another from "August Rush".

Favorite Oscar Moment

When announced as winners, Hansard and Irglova, who also starred in the film, went up to the stage to accept their awards. Unfortunately, due to time contstraints, only Hansard was able to give his acceptance speech and the orchestra played them out. However, after the commercial break, Jon Stewart pulled Irglova back out onstage so she could give her thank you speech and enjoy their moment to the fullest. I think it's safe to say that not every host would've done that. It was a good thing, because I'm pretty sure that her speech resonated through dreamers and struggling artists everywhere. I know it did with me. Class act by Stewart and great song by Hansard and Irglova.

Friday, February 15, 2008

My Oscar Pick for Leading Actor

This year is a rich one for the Lead Actor category for the Academy Awards. I've seen just three of the five movies that are nominated for the Actor in a Leading Role category.

There Will Be Blood: Daniel Day-Lewis
Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street : Johnny Depp
Eastern Promises : Viggo Mortensen
Michael Clayton : George Clooney
In the Valley of Elah : Tommy Lee Jones

Now, because I haven't seen "...Elah" or "Clayton" it may not be a fair assessment to make a prediction just yet. However, after finally watching the UNBELIEVABLE performance by Daniel Day-Lewis in "There Will Be Blood", I think it's safe to say that Day-Lewis will walk away with the award. No doubt, hands down. And if not, then the members of the Academy need some serious retooling.

The Movie

Although the movie clocked in at over two and a half hours, the pacing was excellent through the direction of Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, Magnolia). And although his style was made clear, he wasn't afraid to shine the emphasis on the actors' abilities to push the direction of the movie even further.

The Actors

Nuts. Just Nuts! The energy in this movie is like none that I've ever seen before - and I did see the Coen's "No Country for Old Men" which was a masterpiece in itself, but for reasons largely due to the Coen's direction. "Blood", however knocked my socks off with a performance from Day-Lewis that I didn't know could exist in today's cinema.

Starring opposite Day-Lewis is Paul Dano who scored huge points especially after his work in one of my all-time favorite movies, "The King". He gives Day-Lewis the perfect complement to bounce off such intense interaction scene after scene.

Academy Hating on The Score

From the opening to closing credits and everywhere in between, the haunting orchestral score by Radiohead's guitarist Jonny Greenwood not only added its own horrific character to the movie, but knew how to make everyone squirm in their seats at any given moment. It was the score that played a crucial part in making me want to go and see this movie. It's that powerful.

It beats the heck out of me as to how this score was "overlooked" (ahem...snubbed...huh?...what?) among the five nominees for Best Original Score. The members of the Academy must be hating on Radiohead for turning the entertainment industry on its ear by setting examples to all artists with their new distribution method. And now probably setting an example of their own, perhaps?

From the opening titles to the last scene, the score, the acting and the direction has made this movie an instant classic for moviegoers everywhere (especially with the last "Milkshake" scene). "There Will Be Blood" will strike gold...in the form of a statue, come February 24th.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Writers - Now What?

With the writer's strike over and a three year deal in place, the next obvious question is...what now? Well, first and foremost all the red carpet hounds can sigh in relief knowing that the Oscars will carry on in traditional fashion and everyone can get their glamour and glitz fix - for the moment anyway. But what about afterwards? What about the long haul? Which direction does this take the creative content that everyone has been making a big fuss about during the last 100 days?

New Media
With the strike emphasizing the importance of creative content in the realm of new media in the eyes of both the studios and the creators, it's no secret that we'll be seeing a flurry of new and innovative ways to distribute the content. The studios have the green light and the writers have consented and now we just wait and see.

Adios HD-DVD
With a self-proclaimed victory over the HD-DVD format, Blu-Ray looks to be taking itself a step further with the major studios as well, contributing the leap towards media-rich developments in the way creative content is distributed. There's one avenue.

With the AppleTV 2 release mentioned in the key note speech from Steve Jobs, iTunes will now rent movies as well as sell movies for purchase over the internet complete with previews, trailers and everything else that includes creative content regarding movies. With TV shows already on iTunes and the success of Apple TV now with the ability to stream in full HD, this takes viewing your favorite TV show or movie huge leaps forward into the distribution of creative content. Moreso than the regular YouTubers and average network online sites that stream their own tv shows.

So, buckle in everyone. The distribution of creative content is now a consented cash cow.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Black Mask Project

Familiar with the new movie "Vantage Point"? If you think the concept for the movie is a little too far fetched, I suggest checking out Blackmask.org. - their marketing is outstanding.
NOTE: Pay close attention to the clip below at 1:39.

WARNING: here's the spoiler link, but consider yourself warned as you'll see the man behind the curtain.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

King of California

Starring Michael Douglas, Evan Rachel Wood, Directed by: Mike Cahill

Here's another from 34,000 feet in a series of in-flight movies. Coincidentally, before I left for my trip, I was about to put this movie on the Netflix queue.

Set in Santa Clarita, California (shout out to the Old Road!), this strange tale of a father recently released from a mental institution tries to convince his daughter to help him search for lost Spanish treasure buried underneath their local Costco. Wow. There's another one.

The Best Part.
They captured the desperation and soullessness of the valley perfectly and to a tee. From the newly developed cookie-cutter track homes to the clusters of fast=food restaurants and the sleepy, dry dustbowl "in the middle of nowhere" vibe. Very monotonous, tedious and well, nowhere. The setting helped personify the storyline and added another character to the film as well.

The Worst Part
The layers of this movie that I think were intended weren't fully there. It seemed as if there was a forced/calculated effort to follow the current trend of producing a story-driven low budget indie, except this one had a huge hollywood star attached to it. Not a good sign for an indie flick. I've dug Michael Douglas' stuff since "The Streets of San Francisco", so let me be the first to say that he does better on the big screen with big actors and big directors. Otherwise, his strengths won't be best utilized without a strong supporting cast.

Cases in point - "Wall Street", "Traffic", "The Sentinel". He was great in all three, but not every A-lister can pull off a low budget indie. Nor should every A-lister try. The chemistry has to be right in order for it to work, otherwise it seems like the star is just trying to go slummin' to see how the other half lives.

The casting of Michael Douglas just didn't seem to fit the role. He's a great actor, just not in this role (you know...like Tom Hanks in Da Vinci Code). The suspension of disbelief for any movie is key and I just couldn't buy it. Evan Rachel Wood did a great job with the flick and I think it was she that brought the weight of credibility and believability to the table for this one.

So, the concept and potential was there, but the execution wasn't.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Martian Child

Starring: John Cusack, Joan Cusack (of course), Amanda Peet and Bobby Coleman, Directed by Menno MeyJes

As a frequent flyer, I always look forward to movietime on the airplane. It's fun. BUT...it's always more fun when they show films that sneak in under the theatrical radar that turn out to be pleasant surprises. But this one wasn't your usual cookie cutter storyline. Nope. In this drama, the quirky premise showcases John Cusack as David, a widower who decides to pick up the pieces of his life by moving on and adopting an abandoned child that believes he is from Mars. Try pitching that to a studio.

With as strange a storyline as this is, it wouldn't have worked if it weren't for the pure talent of Bobby Coleman who plays Dennis, the little foster child. This kid had displayed so many layers to his on-camera acting skills that it was simply effortless to believe. And at the end, isn't that what we all want in our 90 minute escapes? To believe?

There's really not much to talk about in technical terms regarding the movie. You can easily tell why this movie has gotten lost on the mainstream radar. From the cinematography to the editing, sound, etc. it all seems pretty average - that is to say that nothing jumps out more than the other. All of the production elements are on an even keel and were very subdued. Maybe it was intentional, but given the star power in the film, I was hoping for more production value.

The depth of this movie comes strictly from its storyline and acting. "But it's a John Cusack movie! It has to be decent at the least!" Well, if "Being John Malkovich" was a 10 and "Serendipity" was a 7, then this would be a 5. It's good, but it drags a bit here and there. A lot could've been edited from the final cut, which I believe would've helped to juice more emotion from certain scenes.

Best Part
The best part of the movie, aside from Coleman's role, was the perfect use of the song "Mr. Blue Sky" from ELO. It actually made me max out the mono volume in my headset. That was probably the closest it got to a Cameron Crowe moment.

Martian Child is a pleasant surprise with a new angle. The talents of Amanda Peet and John Cusack weren't used, but little Bobby Coleman saves the movie.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Guam Travel: Standby Style

The circumference of the earth is approximately 24,900 miles. That's about 2 roundtrips from Guam to LA. That means that I have traveled the equal distance around the earth in the last three months. On standby.

Here I am back on another layover at the Honolulu Intl. Airport. Sure, it's fun for the first two or three times, but after you get too familiar with the drill, it becomes a chore to travel so many times for so many miles. But because of this, I can tell you where to find the best corner to sleep in. Or the best bathroom large enough to change your clothes, brush your teeth and wash up without any interruptions. Or the best place to charge your phone and laptop while enjoying a tropical panoramic, open-air view of the relaxing outdoor gardens.

I'll be sure to give this info out as soon as I can access my photos. But for now, as I sit at Gate 14 awaiting the boarding calls, I need to figure out just how to plan for yet another leg from Hawaii to Guam. Shoot!

Photo by Jim Frazier