Solar Power In Bizarro World

Look, just because this is being written from a parallel universe, you’d be wrong to think that everyone over here is so totally freaky that you couldn’t possibly carry on a conversation with any of us without a cheat sheet in your breast coat pocket. “There’s more that unites us than divides us.” Isn’t that what the bumper sticker makers say?  Well, I’ve always put my faith in their deep wisdom and I think you should do the same. I’ll give you a ‘for instance’ because over here, just like over there, a quality ‘for instance’ makes everything so much easier to understand.  For instance, don’t assume that we on our side of the wormhole don’t damn well love to see John Wayne punch a hippy in his shaggy face, so we can hear the hairy dude whimper “not cool man” as he collapses like a house of cards onto the Duke’s unswept… Read More…

Defining the American Masses: The Common Man or Third-Graders without a Chaperone?

“You’ve reached group-sales for the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  How may I help you?” “Hi there!  Our third-graders are touring Manhattan and we thought we could bring them by tomorrow.” “Certainly.” “That’s great.  This chaperoning is wearing us down so thought we’d drop them off in the morning, catch a show and a few beers and pick them up around 5 or so, if that’s okay” “Umm….Well, we need to have the kids chaperoned…because, you know, there’s a lot of priceless items…” “Thanks so much.  We’ll be by at 10!” There aren’t too many teachers or directors of any respected institution that would permit this scenario.  After all, it’s hard to take a selfie of you and Van Gogh if there’s some kid drawing horns sticking out of the straw hat.  But lately, we’re okay with our other famously innovative institution being taken over by the kids—namely our country. Perhaps… Read More…

“Spotlight” on America’s Conscience: The Church, Jameis Winston & Refugees

“It takes a village to raise them. It takes a village to abuse them. That’s the truth of it.” –Spotlight‘s Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci)    Michael Keaton’s character, Walter “Robbie” Robinson, in the newly-released Spotlight, is seeking Boston Globe confirmation of the Archdiocese cover-up for 70 priests involved in child molestation.  He passes the list to his longtime friend and attorney, “We all knew something was going on.” His friend kicks him out of his house and then follows Robbie into the street and asks him why he didn’t do anything–if he knew something was going on. Robbie pauses and can only say, “I don’t know.” Spotlight’s portrayal of the 2001 investigation by the Globe’s Spotlight unit (Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Brian d’Arcy James) is an excellent snapshot of an entire city looking the other way.  When a representative of a survivor’s group brings his box of evidence to the Globe office… Read More…

Emmy Schools Oscar: 5 More Tips to Make the Academy Awards Less Eternal

A film’s producer was asked about his DP—or “director of photography”—or “cinematographer” in case he’s nominated for anything. “He should be great,” he laughed. “But this is his first non-television gig. He might be too efficient!” Sunday’s Emmy Awards was a perfect example of the terrible crime of being too efficient. The Oscars are notoriously always late–– a tiresome joke that probably began with “Wings” in 1929. Last February I discussed kicking Oscar out of the bingo hall (link).  Not sure if anyone at ABC read it, but perhaps they noticed the show from the Fox producers of the Emmy Awards–Oscar’s “little brother on the little screen”–that now produces more quality filmmaking then any 10 hour epic created by Peter Jackson. The big winner was once again HBO.  “Olive Kitteridge,” “Veep” and “Game of Thrones” clobbered most of the competition.  ”Mad Men” did get its farewell nod as Jon Hamm took his much deserved recognition in his interesting goofy style–– so… Read More…

Fr. Jack’s Open Mind, Open Heart & Open-Mic – Remembering to Breathe

I thought of Fr. Jack Trese at the Traverse City Film Festival this weekend.  In its eleventh year, Michael Moore’s enormous contribution to the economy of northern Michigan has outgrown the city’s world-famous Cherry Festival.  Even staunch conservatives in town are giving him his due for spearheading the 6-day screenings with thousands of friendly volunteers assisting at the film-camps, youth activities, shuttle buses, ticket booths, outdoor movies and panel discussions open to the public. We left our campsite early Saturday morning, riding our bikes to the Opera House to get in line for the Comedy Panel.  We got great seats and waited smugly for the show to begin.  I thumbed through the program and read Mike’s intro explaining that the theme of the 2015 festival was inclusion, particularly in the LGBT community.  An example I heard from two different Republicans of his economic acumen describing the deal he made to outfit the Central… Read More…

Playpens, Curfews and Trust: Our Responsibility to Children

One of the longer hours you can put a teacher through isn’t monitoring lunch or that final 60 minutes before spring conferences are over–it’s at an in-service, the mandatory training that the state, city, superintendent or your principal inflicts upon educators.  Topics can range from the terrors of airborne pathogens to the correct way to open your laptop.  Michigan teachers are required to attend 30 such hours by law and most fall under the same sad irony found in the half-day seminar on the twenty-minute attention span. But somehow, in 1991, I found myself at a training that stays with me to this day.  Its metaphor was the playpen.  Al Dicken, who would later become my administrator when I changed school districts, was the trainer at a drug-awareness session. Al explained that when our kids are tiny, we place them in the playpen (or its transformer version since the late 80s, the… Read More…

Dial a Prayer: Little Miracles on an Indie Set

In February 2014 I received a text from Jason Potash, producer of Storyboard Entertainment’s Dial a Prayer.   “How old is your house?”  I wrote back “1929.”  He was back home in Detroit with writer/director Maggie Kiley and they were scouting locations for their upcoming film to be shot in the area.  They stopped by 90 minutes later and while our old house didn’t make the cut, we ended up dropping in on nine other friends in Royal Oak that same night—two of their houses ended up in the film, one by pure chance. We were stepping out of my friend Micah’s brick home on Hawthorne when I pointed to a white bungalow across the street, figuring they’d be interested in an LA connection, “That’s where my former student Kasey Bell grew up; he works on Family Guy.”  Maggie and production designer Lauren Fitzsimmons glanced up and then at one another.  “Do you think we could look inside?” … Read More…

New Podcast on 2015 Oscars: Our Experts on Birdman, NPH & Hanging Lightbulbs

Following a contest on MyMediaDiary.com, the top three winners guessing the 24 categories from the 2015 Academy Awards, Collin Ward, Melissa Balan and Steve Palizzi, were invited by hosts Kevin Walsh and Kale Davidoff to discuss the following: Best and Worst of the Show Bad Clips Shown for Good Actors Underwhelming Films New Categories such as:Neil Patrick Harris and the Hosting Curse–Too Naughty/Too Nice Best Picture–5 Years from Now Best Trailer Best Stuntwork Best Voice-Over Work Recommended Changes The Academy Voters Country Club/US Senate Snubs Joan Rivers Popularity of Hanging Lightbulbs Birdman and Hollywood’s Love Affair with Itself In the podcast, Melissa shared her project on the Mars mission.  Here’s the link!

Kicking Oscar Out of the Bingo Hall: Creating February Madness for the Academy Awards

I knew last night seemed familiar as the Academy Awards dripped by.  I was once again trapped in the living room of my grandmother’s 1974 Florida mobile home.  The room was stuffy; there was nowhere to go, even shuffleboard or laps on the awesome giant tricycles were forbidden to all under 65–and the pond had gators, reportedly. Last night I watched my 40th consecutive Oscars.  It began when I was in fifth grade with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest sweeping the major awards.  With the advent of cable TV’s 400 more channels, Twitter-feeds and on-demand viewing a lot has changed.  Except for the Oscars. Stuck in Lawrence Welk-Land It still starts at 8:30 pm, still runs past midnight due to the the Death Valley of songs, oddball tributes and eternal commercials somewhere half-past “It’s-gotta-be-over-soon” o’clock.  There is still the same generally awkward monologue/opening number—with a brief 1990s hiatus of Billy Crystal between rotating comedians who all get trashed the next day.  Every year there are minor tweaks—for example, last… Read More…

Pick the Oscar Winners and Become the Next MMD Podcaster!

Predict how tonight’s ceremonies will go! Will it be a laugh-riot or a slow-motion train wreck? At least this year, there’s less certainty of the 1-2 front-runners.  But with John Travolta’s famous mispronunciation last year along with Kim Novak’s awkward moment, there’s always more to watch than the happy and pretending-to-be-happy faces of the nominees. The winner (or winners) will be invited to join us on our post-op podcast this week! Loading…   For some other Oscar-related posts… Kale Davidoff’s review of Whiplash Our 2014 Post-Oscar Podcast–covering the highs, lows and bizarres Steve Palizzi’s fun 2014 Oscar-picks Robert Phillips examines Seth MacFarlane’s 2013 (and only) Oscar hosting gig Kevin Walsh’s Voyeuristic Oscar favorites

Assassins & Teamwork: Filmmaking (and Break-Making) for Cooper Brothers’ Film “Five Windows”

Sometimes, feeling useless can feel quite nice–particularly on a movie set.  Hurry-up-and-wait sums it up, of course.  But if you’re just lurking like I tend to do, watching former students do their thing, you can be quite invisible and love every minute of it. As an extra in Gran Torino, on the other hand, I felt useless even though I did have a job to do.  I was told to walk down the street toward the Grosse Pointe hardware store and act like that wasn’t Clint Eastwood in front of me.  It took me five times, but I did it.  And when the camera stopped rolling, I quickly came to realize that I wasn’t a person, really–I was a prop, a prop that could be replaced much easier than the rake in the window I was instructed to examine, pretending that wasn’t Clint Eastwood in front of me. In the clip below, I’m the blurry guy on the right walking my usual odd… Read More…

“God, I Love My Job!” Welcoming Mistakes and Exploding Stuff – The Life of Sound FX Guru–Ric Viers

Listen to Kevin’s podcast with Ric Viers…   Perhaps it’s osmosis, but Ric Viers has noticed that his son seems to have his dad’s ear.  In the middle of The Hobbit:  The Battle of the Five Armies, there is a Foley mistake–a sword that didn’t clash to the ground.  “And I saw it and I just kind of smiled, but before I could even say anything, my kid leans over and says, ‘Dad, they forgot one of the sound effects.’” After years of on-the-job training, sound effects expert Viers has learned valuable lessons for not just audio but life, not the least includes keeping ones car keys in the refrigerator. Owner of the world’s largest collection of sound-effects, The Detroit Chop Shop, Ric Viers was a guest speaker in November for Detroit area student filmmakers.  The author of the best-selling books The Sound Effects Bible (2008) and The Location Sound Bible (2012), he shared his war-stories and provided tips included in his easy-to-read and… Read More…

New Podcast – Life Lessons & Sound FX with Ric Viers

    Veteran film and TV sound expert Ric Viers, author of The Sound Effects Bible and The Location Sound Bible, joins Kevin Walsh following a workshop Ric gave to Michigan high school students on his 10 Location Sound Commandments, which offer important life-skills as well. They discuss: Soft Skills and Reputation-how the most skilled person on the set may not be the one who stays on the set. How Does One Begin as a Sound Guy? Fatherhood and the osmosis of sound-awareness Gathering sound-effects (and where to leave your keys) Publishing a book (after finding a niche) The “Oh Crap” Kit Check out Ric’s page on Amazon as well as his own website, www.RicViers.com

“Whiplash”: Truly One of the Greats

I’ll start this review how I start every review, which is: go see Whiplash before you read this post. But this time I say this not only because there be spoilers below, but because it’s one of the best damn movies I’ve seen in long, long time. A long time. As I begin my thoughts on Whiplash, I am reminded of the Honest Trailers trailer for Captain America: The Winter Soldier. If you’re unfamiliar, Honest Trailers is a fantastic YouTube channel that takes films we love and makes trailers for them that rip them to shreds; pointing out every plot hole and confusing character motivation they can find. Here was the trailer they made to rip Cap 2 to shreds: [youtube http://youtu.be/JvHyk2ESFCI?t=1m29s]   Honest Trailers wanted to rip Cap 2 a new one, but, if they had to be honest, they were finding it difficult because, damn it, it was truly a good flick. Like… Read More…

Faded Snapshots & Time Travel: Unfogging the Past with PhotoShop

Take a minute and flip through your phone’s pictures taken this Thanksgiving weekend–now zoom-in to something in the background.  Do you notice anything interesting–or something that <em>might </em>be interesting in a few decades? The new Stephen Hawking bio-pic, The Theory of Everything, can drive you a little crazy if you are one of those people who needs to straighten a picture frame in a friend’s house.  Hawking’s glasses are always crooked and always needing cleaning. The color-correction folks in film know what they’re doing when they choose their palettes.  It’s hard not to get nostalgic with a shot like above–and if you add in string instruments and piano you’re already reaching for the Kleenex for memories you didn’t even have.  Flashbacks in film often have an orange or yellow tint to them and, like the world through Hawking’s dirty specs, are generally fuzzy as well.  I wonder who in Hollywood decided this was what nostalgia looked like…. Read More…

“If a Tweet Falls in the Forest…” Life without Applause-Signs, Laugh-Tracks & Likes

It’s often not so much what happens in our lives—as what we figure ought to happen.  If no one likes this post, did it fail? I started noticing  camera-angles and how they manipulated the audience far too early in my life–especially for the poor bystanders who were stuck in a living room, basement or movie theater with me. The Cosby Show, for all of its garish sweaters and too-good-to-be-true charm of a doctor/lawyer upper-middle class family, was a breakthrough on many levels—it revitalized the sit-com and finally placed a TV African-American family out of the ghetto—if you bypass George Jefferson moving on up. But what I noticed immediately, from my hero of a dozen scratched LP comedy albums, was the cutaway to Clair—Cliff Huxtable’s long-suffering wife who managed to smile through the monologues.  You’ll see it in every episode, the need for the reaction shot—generally Phylicia Rashad or one of the kids letting… Read More…

For Kids, Many Voices Become One at “Twenty Feet from Stardom” Benefit Screening & Concert

Few third graders have been heard to proudly announce to their classmates… “I hope to be fourth cellist in the New York Philharmonic.” “I’d like to be a situational middle-inning relief pitcher for the Yankees.” “I want to be an Indy pit crew member.” or… “My dream is to be an editor.” Not many editors get a standing ovation.   Even at the Oscars, its award is sandwiched between Best Costume Design and the latest Revlon commercial.  And you are more likely to be mistaken as that fourth cellist before someone says, “Aren’t you an editor–of documentaries?” Twenty Feet from Stardom honors the teammate, the supporting role–in effect, the glue behind some of the greatest songs of the last fifty years.  And someone had to convert 700 hours of interviews and archival footage of these amazing women into 90 minutes.  Enter Doug Blush, who last Friday embodied the spirit of this movie to help young… Read More…

Superhero Halftime: What “Guardians” Says About Our Galaxy

We live in an absolutely ridiculous time for geeks. If you were to create an historic timeline of superhero films, you could try and pinpoint the turning point with X-Men or Spider-Man. Around the turn of the century, when those films were released, the blockbuster world slowly began to turn on its head. In the 90s, the basis for most action movies was one of the following: (1) CIA agent, (2) rogue cop, (3) two unlikely cop partners teaming up for an action-comedy. After Sam Raimi’s success with Spider-Man, everyone and their uncle had to get their hands on some hot superhero action. But it wasn’t always pretty. For whatever reason, the studios knew that there was a market out there for all and everything superheroes, but they just couldn’t seem to nail it. Because where Sam Raimi and Bryan Singer found a formula that worked, other films like Fantastic Four, Daredevil and The Hulk failed to do… Read More…

“Who is the Tall Dark Stranger There?” James Garner, My First Man-Crush

“I’m getting a little jealous of James Garner,” my wife informed me as I headed down the basement with my burned DVDs.  I was in the middle of  a bit of binge-watching a few months before Netflix appeared on our horizon.  It involved setting our DVR for a series of old Maverick episodes on the Starz Western channel. I’d finally figured out how to burn a bushel of the episodes to a DVD and was taking them downstairs to put by the dusty exercise equipment to induce me to get hooked on a show and lose pounds at the same time. I knew the  Maverick theme song years before I finally saw one of the old episodes… Who is the tall, dark stranger there? Maverick is the name. Ridin’ the trail to who knows where, Luck is his companion, Gamblin’ is his game. Smooth as the handle on a gun. Maverick is the name. Wild as the wind in Oregon, Blowin’ up a… Read More…

New Podcast: “The Fourth Wall” Award-Winning Young Filmmakers

  How do you make a movie?  What does a producer do?  Are English accents tough? Kevin is joined by Adam and Daniel Cooper who wrote, directed and edited the short film “The Fourth Wall,” winner of the international festival for young filmmakers Urban 15’s Josiah Media Festival in San Antonio. Producer Jeremy Shecter and Jonathan D’Ambrosio join the Cooper Brothers to discuss the film, teamwork, making it in the film industry and surprises along the way. The film won the category for best narrative and is now in competition for the festival’s Best of Show award that will occur live via streaming at 7pm July 10-12 via the group’s site:  http://www.urban15.org/