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Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: A Retrospect

"While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do." - Apple Think Different commercial

Where have you gone 2011? Can you believe this is the fifth retrospective I have written? Whether I like it or not, time really flies. I'm writing this retrospective later than any of the previous ones since I'm trying to decide what to write here. I remember watching The Beatles Anthology and George Harrison said that Rubber Soul and Revolver could have really been called part 1 and part 2. I feel the same way when looking at 2010 and 2011. I wrote last year about planting seeds and watching them hopefully grow in 2011. A lot of those seeds are still in the ground. As the old saying goes, patience is a virtue.

The defining moment of the year was finishing grad school in December even though I walked in May. I started my journey at LMU in 2009 and I can't believe how fast it went. Walking across that stage was crazy. I just hope it opens up opportunities both personally and professionally for me. In my exit interview, Dr. DeSena told me about a former student with a music background who became very successful and was recently named educator of the year by LMU. He followed that story up with telling me that he could see me go in that same direction. I didn't really know how to reply to that statement from him on that day. Almost a month later, I still don't know how to reply to that statement.

Finishing grad school really closed another chapter in my life. I'm still unsure how I will look back on my time at LMU. I've said this for a while, but it was a really different experience than Chapman. Everything was different from the environment to the courses to the people. I like to look at that as a positive. I felt like a better person at the end of my time at LMU. My life is in a much better place and that feels really good. I like to think that it rubs off on other areas of my life as well.

I continued to volunteer at Venice Arts throughout the year. I was the development intern from January to April. Then, I was the programs intern from September to December. Plus, I mentored throughout the year. I was really happy with the work I did for them throughout the year. It's fun, rewarding, and the films have been getting better. I have always been fascinated with the mentoring relationship and the effects it has on kids. I realized that is the reason why I went back to school.

To further learn about non-profits I also interned at CoachArt as a programs intern from September to December. I enjoyed my time there, but it was different than Venice Arts. I was glad I did it as I learned about a different organization and saw how not every nonprofit is the same in how they operate. I'm hoping that will be helpful experience in the near future.

I went to Sundance, which was a great time. I read somewhere a while ago that the Sundance Film Festival is something everyone should experience once if you love movies. That statement is so true. I don't know when I'll be back, but my time there is full of memories.

The Oscar party was once again a great success. It's arguably getting a little too big, but I still had a lot of fun. It's quickly becoming a yearly tradition.

The Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup this year. Never thought I would write that sentence. They were a classic example of a team that made a couple good trades at the deadline and played their best hockey in the playoffs. It's hard to not like this team. They were very likable and fun to watch. They were the first team in NHL history to win three game 7s in one playoffs. It also looks like they are in great position to make another run. Almost the entire team is back and I can envision another deep run in 2012.

As for the other Boston teams, 2011 was filled with mostly disappointment. Don't even get me started on the Red Sox. What a bunch of assholes. They are the complete opposite of the Bruins and for the first time in a long time, I actually was disgraced to call myself a Red Sox fan. I just found the team to be very unlikable and arrogant. No reason a team should have blown such a big lead in the wild card race especially considering how talented they were. The window has closed on the Celtics and this past year was further indication. The Big Three era was fun in Boston, but it only generated one championship. Should have been two, but that's the way it goes. The Patriots are quickly becoming a great regular season team that forgets to show up for the playoffs. They were one and done for the second straight year. Losing to the Jets sucked, but they are getting ready for another playoff run as the possible number one seed (pending tomorrow's game).

I made a crazy decision that I would run the LA Marathon in 2012. In September, I started to train for this journey. It's not easy, but I quickly realized that it's not impossible. During my last training run with the LA Roadrunners a couple weeks ago I ran 15 miles. Every Saturday morning since Labor Day I have been waking up and running with a group of people. It's hard to put into words, but it has been amazing. It's inspirational. I'm also in the best shape of my life, so that is always a nice added bonus.

With my M.A. in my hand, I have no idea what is next. I'm currently unemployed, so that sucks. My graduate assistant position ended when I graduated. With my employment status unknown, I did spend a later portion of the year trying to figure out my next move. I have been exploring an idea to start a nonprofit sometime next year. Yes, the idea is crazy.

When I talked earlier about 2010 and 2011 being part 1 and part 2 this is what I meant. The last two years have given me knowledge, skills, and experience to take the next step and do something special. The seeds have been planted for this opportunity. To explain this idea in a nutshell, it is partnering with arts education nonprofits and mentoring at-risk youth applying to college. Nothing will happen overnight, but it is worth at least seeing if this is possible. Only time will tell. As the late George Harrison once said, "We got to do something with our lives."

It could be the marathon training, but 2011 taught me that life is about not being afraid of even the scariest things. At the end of the day, the game of life is a bunch of bullshit. Why worry about the small stuff? Life is too short and time is too quick to let life pass you by. You want to run a marathon? Go run a marathon. You want to make a movie? Go make a movie. You want to get a master's degree. Go get one. You want to start a nonprofit? Well, go start one and stop writing a damn retrospective that is too long and no one is probably reading.

It's funny that I also randomly bumped into someone towards the end of this year. It could be a pointless meeting, but it just reminded me how crazy life is. A chance meeting can sometimes turn into something more. That's what happened with Venice Arts. It reminded me of that Risky Business video I posted last year that I'm going to post again.

That's my goal for 2012. Make the most of my opportunities. I gotta feeling those seeds are going to grow this year.

It's Time to Dream in 2012.

"If you can't say it. You can't do it."

Happy New Year,

Mikey Filmmaker


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

4th Annual Oscar Contest Results

The Oscars are over and it's time to finally announce the winner of the Oscar pool. We had 132 people enter, but one person managed to win the contest outright with 20 correct picks. I have included everyone that scored at least 18 picks, which was the same amount of picks I had this year.

20 Picks
Will Byrnes (Winner)

19 Picks
Jonathan Wells
Mike Tufo

18 Picks
Beth Hartnett
Eleanor Morse
Kirby Holt
Neil Lapinsky
William Smith

Congratulations to Will. I will be in contact with him shortly. I'm unsure if he is a LAMB. He didn't break my record to win the Fandango bucks, but he did win an Oscar poster directly from the Kodak Theater (site of the Oscars) and some swag I got from Sundance.

If anyone thinks there may have been a mistake with their ballot, then leave a comment on this post. I double checked the top finishers and everything looks good. If there are no problems after three days, then I will close the contest.

Here are also some random statistics from the contest that I found interesting.

75/132 predicted The King's Speech for Best Picture
24/132 predicted Tom Hooper for Best Director
66/132 predicted Melissa Leo for Best Supporting Actress
33/132 predicted Inception for Best Cinematography
39/132 predicted Inside Job for Best Documentary Feature
40/132 predicted Strangers No More for Best Documentary Short
30/132 predicted In a Better World for Best Foreign Language Film
11/132 predicted The Lost Thing for Best Animated Short
33/132 predicted God of Love for Best Live Action Short

Thanks again everyone for participating. See you next year for the 5th Annual contest.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Thoughts on the 83rd Academy Awards

The 83rd Academy Awards have come and gone. I love the Oscars, so this was a little tough for me. I rewatched the show again earlier today and it wasn't very good. It's finally time to share some thoughts on what happened on Sunday.


I did had a fun time having some people over my apartment. There were 20 people in my cramped apartment. A little more than I wanted. Really wanted to have about 15 people over, but had a few unexpected guests. It happens. Managed to drink 18 bottles of wine, so I think that is a hell of an accomplishment.


I went 18 out of 24, which isn't too bad. I've managed to get at least 18 correct picks in 5 out of the last 7 years. So I usually consider 18 to be the key number on Oscar night.

Last night was just another reminder of how special it was when I went 22 out of 24 in 2009. That very well may never be topped by me.

No one beat my Oscar record in the my annual Oscar contest. Again, just another reminder of how hard it is to get 22 picks.

I had a weird night with my picks as I actually went 0 for 2 to start the night off and 1-3 in the first four categories. Then, I proceeded to go 17-3 over the next 20 categories to finish with 18 picks. After my 1-3 start, I actually thought I was going to have a real bad night. Luckily, I rebounded.

I actually picked Best Documentary - Short Subject right for the first time since 2008. I usually consider that to be my worst category, so it felt nice.

I'm glad I didn't change my Supporting Actress pick. I stuck with Leo and it paid off. I never fully bought into the idea that Hailee Steinfeld would pull it off.

I'm mad at myself for not changing 3 categories I should have got right (Best Original Score, Best Art Direction, and Best Costume Design). I really overestimated the Academy's love for The King's Speech. I went with that film in all three of these categories even though I was a little worried. The worst part is my alternate in all three of these categories was the actual winner. Part of me just didn't think Alice in Wonderland would win 2 Oscars. Still find it hard to believe, but oh well...

The other 3 categories I got wrong, I would have never changed. I had to stick with True Grit for Best Cinematography. The other 2 were shorts, which is always a crapshoot anyway.

I'm really happy I stuck with Tom Hooper. When predicting the Oscars, you can't play favorites and need to pick the person or film you think has the best shot to win. The way the race was going, it just felt like Hooper was the best choice. I was shocked how many people went with Fincher. Was the guy robbed? Yes, he was, but let's be honest, the Oscars make a lot of poor choices. Just ask Martin Scorsese.


In the week leading up the Oscars, I had a feeling James Franco and Anne Hathaway would be bad Oscar hosts. Unfortunately, I was correct. They just lacked the X factor that makes someone a great Oscar host. The Oscars are always the hardest hosting gig, so it shouldn't be too surprising they were going to run into trouble.

The show just lacked a lot in general. It has been universally panned. I hope Anne and James rebound as I think they are both really talented.

Franco is taking even more heat than Hathaway. Some people said he was stoned. I disagree. It felt like to me that he just didn't really care that much.

I still think Hugh Jackman was the best host in the last five years. In looking for a host or hosts for next year, they need to look for someone in the similar mold. I actually hope they go back to a single host. I just think it works better. Part of the problem with Franco and Hathaway is that they lacked chemistry. I found it a bit surprising too since I thought they would work well together. Not sure what happened.

Kirk Douglas is a legend, but watching him was painful. The guy is 94 years old. It was funny at first, but soon became just awkward.

The speeches in general I thought were okay. Nothing really special was said. Maybe the most memorable part was when Melissa Leo dropped the f bomb. I thought David Seidler's speech was great. It was probably my favorite of the night.

It was funny and awkward when Spielberg talked about all these great films that didn't win Best Picture. The statement was true, but it was weird to hear it on the Oscars. It was almost discrediting the award.


Really surprised The King's Speech only won 4 Oscars. It even failed to win one technical award. It was surprising to me.

Inception winning 4 Oscars was also surprising. Best Cinematography was probably the surprise the night.

Before Best Director was announced, I honestly thought The Social Network may win Best Picture. The King's Speech was underperforming, so it left the door open. Then, Tom Hooper won and it was all over.

Some people have horrible luck with the Academy. Last night, Fincher, Deakins, and Bening all lost again. A lot of people thought this would be the year for Fincher and Deakins. I hope they get their Oscar one day, but it will probably be for not their best work. Then again, that happens to a lot of people. As for Bening, she just can't get a role strong enough to get her over the top. She's lost twice to Hilary Swank and now to Natalie Portman. It's not like she is losing to horrible actresses.


Overall the Oscars this year were okay for me. The party was great. My ballot was great. The show sucked. It happens. Not every Oscars can be like the 81st Academy Awards, which is still "The Greatest Oscars Ever".

Monday, February 21, 2011

Current Oscar Predictions

I am going to post final predictions on Saturday, but I figured I would give everyone an idea of what I'm thinking right now.

Best Picture: The King's Speech

This is either going to be King's Speech or Social Network. While I would prefer Social Network, I have to go with the British film. It has won all the relevant precursors and people seem to love it. Seems like a safe choice right now.

Best Director: Tom Hooper, The King's Speech

I'm really conflicted with this pick. I may change it by the weekend. Hooper won the DGA, but Fincher could pull it off. The DGA is just such a good precursor. This could be a year where Picture/Director split. The last time that has happened was 2005 when Ang Lee took Director and Crash won Picture. I really think this is a toss up and I don't think I'll feel safe about this pick at all on Oscar night.

Best Actor: Colin Firth, The King's Speech

This is the easiest pick out of all the acting categories. This is really a lock. Would be shocked if Firth lost.

Best Actress: Natalie Portman, Black Swan

Poor Annette Bening can't catch a break. I still haven't seen The Kids Are All Right, but she always seems to be in second place when she gets nominated (ex. American Beauty and Being Julia). Portman is in the driver's seat and it doesn't make sense to pick against her.

Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, The Fighter

Could Rush sneak in and win this? It's possible if Oscar night becomes a King's Speech lovefest. I just like Bale in this race. He has the asshole factor working against him, but he's done really well this awards season. Especially with his speeches, which I have really enjoyed. People know he's hard working and he seems to be enjoying himself. Plus, Rush already has his Oscar, which I do think will work against him.

Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo, The Fighter

There's a good chance I will change this pick to Steinfeld by Saturday. I don't know if The Fighter can really win two acting awards. I am also worried about Adams and Leo splitting the vote. I am also worried about Bonham Carter pulling this out as well. Basically I'm worried about this race more than any other major category. Really hard race to predict and I'm really confused.

Best Original Screenplay: The King's Speech

Feel pretty safe with this pick. Can't really go against it here.

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Social Network

Social Network may lose Picture and Director, but it should definitely take this. Be shocked if it lost.

Best Animated Feature: Toy Story 3

Don't bet against Pixar in this category. I would have to say this is a lock and one of the safest picks of the night.

Best Art Direction: The King's Speech

This is a tough call. I'm going with King's Speech because I don't see Alice in Wonderland winning this Oscar and I don't think Inception has enough support. Films like The Aviator have won this category and I think King's Speech will follow.

Best Cinematography: True Grit

I feel like this is a trap pick and I may change it. Everyone says Roger Deakins' time has come. The problem is the voting ballot doesn't say his name on it. Is it common knowledge he was the DP? I'm not convinced. This could be a situation where there's a surprise. I'll come back to this pick over the weekend.

Best Costume Design: The King's Speech

I look at The Aviator for my support that films like King's Speech can win over a film like Alice in Wonderland. Bad films have won in this category, so it's definitely possible for an Alice win. Part of me refuses to put it down on my ballot right now. That could change.

Best Documentary - Feature: Inside Job

Exit Through the Gift Shop could win, but I don't know if the Academy will want to acknowledge Banksy. I haven't seen Inside Job yet, but it feels like the film to beat.

Best Documentary - Short Subject: Strangers No More

No one really knows anything about this category. I never get this right, so if you want a piece of advice, don't pick Strangers No More.

Best Film Editing: The Social Network

Usually Best Picture wins this, but I think the editing in Social Network is so good that it can't be passed up. I could be wrong, but I leaning towards this to win over King's Speech.

Best Foreign Language Film: In a Better World

Better World won the Globe, which means nothing. I'm going with it right now because I need more time. I'm just not feeling Biutiful or Incendies for the win. Though, I think Incendies has a better shot. I guess I really just don't think Biutiful will win.

Best Makeup: The Wolfman

Everyone is picking this to win. I'm just following the leader. Although, I wouldn't be shocked if another film wins. The alternate feels like Barney's Version.

Best Original Score: The King's Speech

At first it looked like Social Network would win this, but it's looking like King's Speech. Sounds like more of an Oscar winning score to me.

Best Original Song: "We Belong Together", Toy Story 3

The other songs don't stand out as much. I could see this losing to "If I Rise" from 127 Hours. I'm just not confident enough to pick it.

Best Short - Animated: Madagascar, a Journey Diary

Contrary to the Animated Feature, don't bet on a Pixar film. I'm not going with Day and Night. I like The Gruffalo and that may win, but I really liked the animation style in Madagascar. Reminded me of the short animation that won a few years back. That probably means nothing, but that is what is dictating my thoughts right now.

Best Short - Live Action: Wish 143

I feel like it's going to be either this or Na Wewe. I may change it by Saturday. Considering this is one of the 5 categories that members must attend special screenings, I feel like they will vote for the film that touched them the most. This very well may be it.

Best Sound Editing: Inception

A lot of people are predicting a little Inception mini sweep for both sound categories and VFX. This sound category is definitely safer than Mixing. I can't see the other nominees winning.

Best Sound Mixing: Inception

This could be like 2008 when Slumdog won Mixing and Dark Knight won Editing. If the Oscars turn into a King's Speech lovefest, then that will happen. I just don't see it getting to that point.

Best Visual Effects: Inception

This has to win right? Definitely not a lock, but I feel pretty confident about this pick.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Films I Saw at 2011 Sundance

I figured I would finally post my thoughts on the films I saw at Sundance this year. I saw seven features and two shorts programs. I'm not going to rank the shorts because it would just take too long to do and I'm at work right now. Sundance ended over the weekend, so I want to post this before it becomes too late. Special thanks to Jason Stevens for organizing the whole trip. Going to Sundance was one of the best times I've had in long time.

Celebrity Sightings (that I remember off the top of my head):

Robert Redford (first celeb sighting and the best), Harry Belafonte, Ben Foster, Thomas Dekker, Juno Temple, John Salley, Christopher McDonald, Morgan Spurlock, Freddie Highmore, Emma Roberts, Elizabeth Banks (Not confirmed, but I'm pretty sure it was her. I recognized her jacket from some Sundance photos.)

Now onto the actual rankings...

7. Pariah

This was one of the two opening night films I saw. I don't think this was a bad film, but I had trouble getting into it. This was a classic example of a film I would have never watched unless I was at Sundance. I guess that is one of the great things about the festival.

6. The Woman

If Sundance gave out a most disturbed film award, then it would go to this film. A family decides to capture a woman living in the forest and basically torture her for two hours. This was the last film I saw at Sundance and probably the reason I got the flu three days later. While I didn't hate it as much as some people, I still didn't really expect to see a film like this at Sundance. The film has everything from domestic abuse to rape to incest before ending with a bloodbath. A lot of people have been talking about this film since it premiered. In a lot of ways, it's a great horror movie for that reason. It leaves a mark on you, but it's so twisted and disturbing that I really didn't know how to take it all in. Maybe, I need to watch it again. On second thought, maybe I'll just let you watch it for yourself and make up your own mind.

5. Kaboom

This film was really wacky. The ridiculous thing about this film was that it got crazier and crazier as the film progressed. There was like no rules in this film. Definitely made it entertaining to watch as you never knew what was going to happen. There was sex, drugs, more sex, people running around with animal masks, even more sex, and a cult trying to control the world. Then, out of nowhere, everything goes KABOOM!


Okay, I'm not going to lie, I was in bad shape when I watched this film. It was part of my marathon movie watching day of Friday and I was literally exhausted. Combine that with the fact that this film's pacing is slow, I struggled to stay awake during portions of this film. To be fair, I would like to watch this film again and if it ever gets distribution I will go see it because I feel bad I didn't give it a fair chance. Anyway, this was a beautifully shot film and probably the best shot film I saw at Sundance. Some of the landscape shots of Armenia are breathtaking. The film has a Lost in Translation feel to it and if you're down for a less conventional love story, then I thought this film was refreshing.

3. The Ledge

I didn't realize it until after I got out of this film, but the lead in this film was in Undeclared. Just felt like sharing that. I wanted this film to be better. I think my expectations were too high (similar to HERE), but I still enjoyed this film. Part of the reason I liked this film was that it was not a standoff film about trying to convince a guy to not jump, but rather the film is about the guy's relationship with his neighbor and her evangelical Christian husband. Charlie Hunnam's character is an atheist too, which adds an interesting dynamic to the whole film. The film is told mostly in flashback as you watch him and Liv Tyler fall in love and eventually realize why he is on the ledge.

2. Sing Your Song

This was the first film I saw at Sundance. Not a bad first film to see at all. It was actually my number one film until Sunday. I knew a little about Harry Belafonte before, but I actually had no idea how important he was. I actually learned a lot watching this film. The man lived an incredible life. This documentary also did a great job using archival footage especially some of the footage of him and Martin Luther King Jr. I left this documentary wanting to change the world. It was very inspiring.

1. How to Die in Oregon

I remember reading the synopsis of this film months ago. I was pulled in immediately when I read that someone literally died on camera within the first few minutes. I thought to myself, this film is going to be intense and different. I thought this was one of the most powerful films I've ever seen. I was just emotionally drained after watching it along with everyone else in the theater. I'm pretty sure that almost everyone in the theater was crying during this film. The film is about physician assisted suicide or death with dignity in Oregon. I went into this film not really supporting this, but after watching the film, I think death with dignity should be legal in the United States. The film primarily followed a woman, Cody Curtis, who was a woman in her 50s with terminal liver cancer. The film follows her last months as she comes to terms with her own life and really makes you reevaluate your own life. This film is not really about death as much as about living with dignity and leaving this world on your own terms. This film was awarded the grand jury prize in the documentary competition. I believe this documentary will be airing on HBO over the summer. Everyone should watch it. Peter Richardson made an extraordinary film that was by far the best film I saw at Sundance.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tomorrow is Sundance

It's finally here. Tomorrow is Sundance. I actually wanted to write something about the Patriots, but I've been extremely busy with school and work. Plus, I'm trying to get ready for this trip. I may revisit the Patriots next week. I also would like to write a review on my experience of Sundance. I'll be there from Thursday through early Monday morning. Should be a crazy trip.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thank You to God!

I still can't stop laughing at the fact that Ricky Gervais said this on television. A lot of people are giving him shit for this comment. There's nothing wrong with it. Why can't people not believe in God? Atheists are perfectly fine humans, yet we continue to get criticized because we simply don't believe in the existence of a God. It's frustrating at times, so I have to applaud Ricky for having the guts to say it. It probably should have been said years ago. No reason religious people and atheists can't coexist.